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 trade deadline rant; Peters, Almond swap vocations, locations

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild practice, Wild trade news Updated: February 27, 2011 - 1:45 PM

Afternoon from Minneapolis, Cody Almond, who missed last game with a hip flexor, will be reassigned today and Warren Peters is on his way back up.

Coach Todd Richards was impressed with Peters' game in Anaheim. He brought energy and physicality, and frankly that's what Richards is looking for from that role. Richards made clear he still believes in Almond, but what Peters brought is what he needs to see from Almond. He said after the game in L.A. that he felt Almond was hesitant and waiting for the game to come to him. Peters was the opposite, at least the other night, engaging players, finishing his checks and getting in guys faces.

Kyle Brodziak, who missed the past two games with illness, practiced and should play against Chicago. Cam Barker, who's missed the past two games with injury, did not practice. In potentially bad news, Guillaume Latendresse, who's been complaining about soreness in his groins and hip, left practice early and Richards didn't have an update. We'll see if he's on the ice tomorrow before we ring the alarm bell.

As for the trade deadline, here's the story in today's paper. Please give it a read.

I feel like Dennis Miller on his old, I think, HBO show where he'd say, "Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but ... "

I'm amazed at some of the comments. Maybe it's because we're in our own little bubble here and you don't get to watch every team in the league, but the Wild's no different than most teams in this league.

What's more, it's been one of the hottest team's in the NHL since Dec. 18, is on the same playoff bubble as really nine teams in the West and has been more consistent than many of the teams in this conference in a 2-plus month stretch.

The Wild's got 33 wins, 31 of which have come in regulation or overtime. That's the fourth-most in the conference, which as long as they keep winning, is huge because that's the first tiebreaker.

But there still seems this amazing amount of negativity toward this team and the way it's being run. I noticed this in my online chat the other day when people were asking me about their "iffy" and slim playoff chances. I was thinking to myself, "are you not paying attention?"

They're right there with everybody else and going into a game (that day) against Edmonton, which was going to be extremely winnable. The Wild did win, and on that night at least, moved into fifth.

Maybe there's this fallacy that the Wild stinks because its best play has come on the road (although it's 6-1-1 in its past 8 home games), maybe it's because it doesn't have a quote-unquote star, maybe it's because it's hard for fans to shake off that early-season skepticism.

Hey, I'm partly responsible for that. I didn't start to really buy in until pretty much that three-game sweep of a road trip in Boston, Pittsburgh and New Jersey in early January, so maybe my writing, especially after a winless preseason, was more negative than positive. I'll be the first to admit that.

But this is a good team right now.  A player I was shooting the breeze with today may have said it best: He said the Wild's that typical team you see once in awhile that has to fight and claw to get into the playoffs, but if it gets there, it actually plays a style that could take it a long way.

The Wild plays tough, hard hockey every night, defends well most nights and "are comfortable playing in close games, which puts us at an advantage in the playoffs," said this player.

And as Jose Theodore on the record and several other players off the record said to me today, the Wild's chemistry is second to none and you don't want to mess that up.

This is why GM Chuck Fletcher's talking the way he did in the article. The Wild, on paper, may be not as talented as many of its opponents, but it's overcoming that because it's playing hard, touch hockey, is incredibly close and has bought in completely to how it must play to win games.

This is why, to answer a bunch of emails and tweets the other day publicly, the Wild didn't claim Nikolai Zherdev off waivers. There's a buy-in factor right now. Fair or not (I don't know him), Zherdev has a bad reputation as a locker-room guy and a player who wants to play the game his way.

That's what Fletcher generally means in the article when he says he can add players who make them 10 percent more talented but conceivably worse on the ice.

That is why management doesn't want to tinker too much with it. Again, that doesn't mean Fletcher won't add a player (as I wrote after a recent loss in Chicago, man another player to put the puck in the net would be great).

But because of the above, I don't see dramatic moves. Plus, frankly it just can't go out and get just anybody it wants. The team's close to the cap, and it still needs to save money so it doesn't go over the cap in case of injuries, meaning there must be a cushion of cap space left.

Remember, the rosters do expand Monday (no 23-man rosters anymore), but you still have to be cap compliant.

I get a few emails daily:

--Why don't they trade John Madden? I mean, do I really have to answer that question? First, Mikko Koivu is hurt. Second, you sign a guy that's won three Stanley Cups to try to take advantage of that experience in the playoffs. You don't trade that unless you're completely out of it. I mean, did you watch John Madden drive Ryan Getzlaf loco the other night? He's a warrior. Hey, he's not the same player he once was. There have been moments where his game has struggled this season. But there's also times, like in LA and Anaheim, where I think to myself it would be foolish for the Wild not re-sign him this summer. 

--Why don't they trade Jose Theodore? I mean, do I really have to answer that question? First, Niklas Backstrom is 2 years removed from hip surgery and is a month removed from a hip injury. Second, the Wild has a tremendous 1-2 punch right now and in a conference where literally every lost 2 points drops you a slot or five in the standings, how confident do you think this team is right now when on the second of a back-to-back or if Backstrom struggles or gets hurt they get to tap Theodore's shoulders? Unless it's a trade that completely is a no-brainer, why would you take the team's biggest area of depth and crumble it? It just makes no sense, especially at the bargain price that Theodore's playing at ($1.1 million).

I just don't see any of the above two scenarios happening. Now watch it does, ha. But if it does and is not a for a knock-your-socks off deal, I think it's ludicrous.

I don't see Andrew Brunette going anywhere. I'd be surprised if Antti Miettinen went anywhere. And while I wouldn't be surprised if Chuck Kobasew did, man, if he's going to play like he played in Anaheim, that's the type of battle level worth keeping. If you could trade Barker for an upgrade, I think you do it. But he's hurt right now, although not long term.

Again, the Wild has a good thing going now. I don't see major subtractions. If you could use an Almond or a Colton Gillies or another one of the minor-leaguers or mid-round draft pick to get a good work-ethic, character guy, particularly at center, I see that happening.

But trust me, when I walk through that room, the majority of players agree with Fletcher on this. They love the chemistry of this team, believe in themselves and want to see this thing through to the end.

Where it goes from here, who knows? Maybe the players can't pull this off. But they sure would love to find out if they can.

OK, now that I got that off my chest, be sure to come back to startribune.com/wild and startribune.com/russo for any Wild trade deadline move, but the best place to get instantaneous information is www.twitter.com/russostrib.

Talk to you Monday (the deadline is 2 p.m.)

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