Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild, pre-game

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Wild game coverage Updated: December 26, 2010 - 5:03 PM

Greetings. Youngblood here; Russo will catch up with the team in Columbus tomorrow.

Wild coach Todd Richards said the team looked a little sluggish during the morning skate. That's to be expected given the two days off; I'm sure every coach in the NHL was saying that today.

Anyway, some notes, quotes and information:

--Defenseman Nick Schultz, out since sustaining a head injury Dec. 18, passed his baseline test and has been cleared to play. But he won't play tonight; Richards wants him to see how he feels after skating hard this morning. Schultz, meanwhile, said he felt pretty good but also wanted to see how he felt after getting the heart rate up. He hasn't skated in more than a week, so it's understandable. Schultz will go with the team to Columbus after tonight's game, and is a possibility for tomorrow.

--It's Backstrom in net. Not surprising, given that he's on a personal  3-game winning streak, having allowed just one goal in each game. I thought there might be a chance Jose Theodore would go, given how well he played in Detroit in November. Richards said the plan is to play Theodore in Columbus tomorrow.

--Again no surprise: Richards is going with the same lineup, same defensive pairings and same lines tonight. Why mess with a good thing like a three-game winning streak?

--Detroit comes into this game missing Pavel Datsyuk, who is out with a broken hand that will keep him out of the lineup for at least a month. Detroit also came to St. Paul having won just four of its last 10 games. But don't tell any of that to Richards.

"Their struggles aren't like other teams' struggles," Richards said. "They're a talented team, great coaching, great leaders. Really, all you have to say is Detroit. Obviously it's a bit of a blow with Datsyuk being out of the lineup. But they have other pieces, not the same piece, but  other pieces that will step in and do the job for them." 

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