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 slip out of top-8; Zidlicky to practice Tuesday; Almond, Falk reassigned

Posted by: Michael Russo under Super Bowl, Wild game coverage Updated: February 5, 2011 - 11:06 PM

Evening from Glendale, Arizona, where the Wild was shut out 1-0 by the Coyotes. Ilya Bryzgalov made 25 saves for a relatively simple shutout and 2:20 into the third, Taylor Pyatt scored the first goal on Niklas Backstrom since 9:24 into the first period at Chicago on Jan. 25.

As Keith Yandle said, Backstrom "was kicking tonight. When he's playing at his best, it's really tough to get one by him. We've seen him do that before and we knew it might be a 1-0 game. He's such a good goalie, if we get one by him we had to make it stand up."

Backstrom was extraordinary behind a flat, flat team. He stopped 40 of 41 shots, including several, as Shane Doan said, "incredible ones."

But the Wild couldn't sustain any real pressure. They were beaten to pucks, couldn't chase down dumps and the D had a difficult time getting the puck up to the forwards. The Coyotes looked to be the quicker and more desperate team.

Look, every team's going to be tired or flat once in a blue moon. That's understandable. But it's not affordable, not in this conference.

The Wild slipped from 7th to 9th and will drop more, you can guarantee, because it's idle until Wednesday's home game (it'll honor Andrew Brunette for his 1,000th game that night) vs. Colorado.

Matt Cullen's injury and Jared Spurgeon's illness hurt because three forward lines were fouled up and the Wild lacked two of its usual power-play pointmen. The good news is both should be back by Wednesday, and others, like John Madden, who is clearly hurt, will have time to rest up.

Flat game all around, but as Backstrom said, "One bounce there, one bounce here, we could have tied it."

But that didn't come. Lot of guys played poorly, a lot of passengers, as Jacques Lemaire likes to say.

And suddenly the Wild, which scored 21 goals in five games before the break (4-1), has been shut out through regulation in two of three games since the break. The first time, Backstrom saved the day with a shutout, 3 for 3 shootout and 1-0 win over LA.

In other news:

Talked to GM Chuck Fletcher tonight, and Marek Zidlicky, who hasn't played since Dec. 29, is expected to practice Tuesday. Guillaume Latendresse is 10 to 14 days away from practice. He is expected to see his doctor this week. Fletcher hopes he can be back in the lineup by March 1.

Also, Cody Almond and Justin Falk, who both played tonight, were reassigned after the game.

As for the Wild, it's changed up it's schedule a little bit the next few days. It was originally supposed to take Sunday off, but the other day it changed that up. It'll now practice Sunday and take Monday off. Then, full practice again Tuesday.

Kent is covering Sunday's practice, so he'll write and blog. With no practice Monday, the next blog from me probably will be after Tuesday's practice. Of course, I'm sure I'll be active on Twitter (russostrib).

Enjoy the Super Bowl.

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