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 smashed in Smashville; Good news on Backstrom

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: January 11, 2011 - 11:18 PM
Up and down, up and down, up and down.
 
That's been the Wild's season. A four-game win streak has been followed now by a two-game losing streak and again questions about how good this smoke and mirrors team really is.
 
Jose Theodore had his worst outing with the Wild and was eventually pulled after giving up the fourth goal midway through the third period. But most concerning, the Wild coughed up the puck left and right, couldn't overcome the pressure the swarming Predators were applying and, according to Richards, looked "intimidated by the speed."
 
That is not a good sign. We're in the second half. Games are going to get faster, and the Wild's got a ton of fast opponents coming up with Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton, San Jose, Chicago.
 
The Wild got good offensive looks tonight but was beaten by a red-hot goalie, Pekka Rinne, who made 25 saves for his fifth straight game in which he allowed one goal. The Predators, who went 8-0-2, then snapped a five-game losing streak in Minnesota on New Year's Eve, have now won six in a row.
 
The Wild lost on the road for the first time since Dec. 12, and a close game unraveled quickly in the third when they allowed three.
 
One awful sign about this team that I wound up trimming out of the paper yesterday in effort to tighten by stuff, the Wild has been trounced now 11 times this season. It's is 5-11 in 3-plus-goal games, the fourth-most losses in the NHL.
 
The Wild blew a chance to move into eighth and could be in 11th if San Jose wins tonight, yet still two points out of 8th.

Thirteen guys were minuses tonight, 7 minus-2 or worse, including Brent Burns at minus-3 and Marco Scandella is second straight minus-3. Greg Zanon was trying to settle him down after the game.
 
Like I said, Theodore wasn't good tonight, and he admitted it after. But even though the Wild was right in it after 2 periods, they just didn't solve Nashville's defensive structure and aggressiveness, eventually tried to force things and the roof caved.
 
The one bit of good news after the game is GM Chuck Fletcher said goalie Niklas Backstrom has a strained hip flexor and his labrum is "intact," according to Dr. Marc Philippon. He's back in Minnesota and will rest for four or five days. If the symptoms subside, he could even make the next road trip.
 
Richards said Wednesday will be a rest and recovery day for the Wild. No practice. Players are to use the days to rest the mind and the bodies and show up for practice Thursday ready to work. Big two-game homestand coming up against Colorado and sickly-hot Vancouver.
 
Unless there's news, no blog Wednesday. This is my 10th day on the road. I'm going to familiarize myself with my home and not think hockey either.
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