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 tries to pick up the pieces tonight vs. Maple Leafs; Injury updates

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 22, 2011 - 2:55 PM

Corrected/revised 2:55 p.m.

The Wild hopes that the wreckage that's come with Sunday's 7-goal loss to Montreal is cleaned up and the beat goes on tonight against the Canadiens' rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Same lineup tonight vs. the Leafs as Sunday, mostly because the Wild's got no choice. No extra healthy bodies right now. Correction: Actually, Warren Peters is still here, so Wild does have an extra healthy body, but he will be scratched.

Niklas Backstrom will start. Marek Zidlicky will miss another game with a tight hamstring, but he hopes to skate a bit tomorrow.

Cam Barker has been skating a little and may practice tomorrow, coach Todd Richards said. He'll miss another game with a back injury.

Amazing stat regarding the much-maligned Barker, who was playing his best hockey before hurting his, I believe, back. The Wild was rolling along with Barker in the lineup. He's missed 12 of the past 13 games. The Wild's 2-8-2 in those games.

Hey, I'm just throwing the stat out there. Don't shoot the messenger, like a small number of you just love to do. 

Obviously, there are a lot of factors to that record. But Barker was playing real well when he got hurt, and he is, regardless of what you think of his game or whom he was traded for, an NHL body who was playing Rick Wilson's boxout system (moving bodies to let the goalies see shots) really well in the weeks leading up to that injury. I don't think it's a coincidence that the boxout system has been almost nonexistent during this slide.

Guillaume Latendresse: I have my doubts we'll see him again this season. Richards said he's hoping so, but it "may or may not happen."

James Sheppard had a setback, Richards said, suddenly getting some soreness in his injured knee. He'll be given some rest and that will hopefully alleviate the pain, Richards said. I have my doubts we'll see Sheppard play. He is still suspended from the team by the way, but apparently he can be taken off that and put on the active roster with the push of a button.

Tough couple days for the team. Had to deal with the personal shame of losing so terribly to the Habs and the public ridicule from fans and media alike.

The reality is, as John Madden said, every team in the league usually has one of those games once a season. I still remember watching with my mouth ajar in November when Chicago walked into Vancouver (in my mind the best team in the NHL) and whipped the Canucks, 7-1.

What made this more painful? Cue Matt Cullen: "You have nights where everything goes wrong at certain times in the year. I mean, let's be honest, you and I probably had them in Florida. But at such a big time in the season at such an important game, that’s what’s so disheartening about it and that’s what's so shocking about it. You leave with a sick feeling in your stomach and you don’t sleep. The importance of the game and then the way that it went, the way we played, is what makes it really hard to take."

(Yes, Cullen mentioned we were in Florida together. For those of you who can't deal with me mentioning Florida occasionally, feel free to move on to the countless other places in this area where you can get complete, objective Wild coverage on a daily basis).

Tough couple days for Richards, too.

He said the mood this morning was pretty good. "Can't feel sorry for yourself because you’ve got a Toronto team that really doesn’t care."
 
He said the goal is to get back to being the cohesive group it was for 2-plus months and "trusting each other that they're going to do their job so you can do yours."
 
"Yesterday was a tough day without question," he said.
 
Lots of questions from fans yesterday in my email basket and on Twitter regarding the day off, which was pre-scheduled but not scrapped by the coach who could have practiced em or bagged em.
 
As I guessed today in my Insider here, "When you travel west to east, it’s difficult. We turned around and have a 1 o’clock game and then we have a 5 o’clock game. And to me it was a no brainer to give the guys a day off, probably more mental than physical the way the game went on Sunday. … I think we needed to get away from each other, just think and we’ll see what we get tonight."
 
OK, that's it. I received a lot of questions from readers what I thought of the Matt Cooke head shot vs. Ryan McDonagh. I'll weigh in with Wild player thoughts in tomorrow's game notebook and my Sunday column. I also wrote a very quick blog on here yesterday and two blogs on Versus.com, so check those out.
 
I'll say this: I love Penguins GM Ray Shero's statement on the Cooke suspension. There's a culture in the NHL to always protect your own. Shero did not. As I always say, Shero's one classy, upstanding GM.
 
“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game. Head shots have no place in hockey. We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.”

OK, that's it from me. Talk to you after tonight's game. Have a great day.

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