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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Game 81, and Wild may have found next year's 1st-line right wing

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: April 8, 2011 - 11:46 PM

Pierre-Marc Bouchard was put on the right wing of Andrew Brunette and Mikko Koivu, and the result was instant chemistry. Of course, Bouchard always roasts Edmonton, so who knows what that means, but the way Bouchard plays the game, there's definite potential with at least that center/right wing tandem and maybe as a trio if Brunette returns.

And frankly, if you align all the pegs and figure out what the Wild can do this summer as far as filling in its roster, I think there's a very good chance Bouchard winds up replacing Antti Miettinen there.

Bouchard and Koivu had three assists and Brunette scored an empty-netter.

Brent Burns snapped a 17-game goal drought with his 17th goal and Jared Spurgeon scored for the second time this year against his hometown Oilers (first in front of friends and family).

Scrappy game, especially early. The team's combined for 96 of the 100 first-period penalty minutes in the first 9:36. That had a lot to do with the Wild's 5-0 record against Edmonton heading into the game and the fact that the Wild was pushed around in its previous two visits here. 

Clayton Stoner had an ugly go with Theo Peckham seven seconds in. More uncomfortable than watching Stoner get crushed live was having to watch Stoner watch himself getting crushed on the jumbotron from the press box during the second intermission.

That's because to add insult to injury, Stoner was booted for not having his jersey tied down. That left the Wild, which played last night and got in late, with five D for 59:53. Two of those D were Drew Bagnall, making his NHL debut, and Maxim Noreau, playing his fourth game.

Still, Stoner was at least up to the challenge with Peckham, who was chirping away before the faceoff. And Stoner's emerged to be a guy that should be relied upon next year.

Bagnall impressed during his NHL debut. Played 17 hard minutes. Stood up for teammates, especially Jose Theodore.

Theodore, by the way, may have started his last game if he doesn't return. Won his 14th game with 29 saves.

That's it for me. Early flight. Read the paper for the rest of the details.

Couple notes that may have gotten trimmed:

Subhed

 

There’s a good bet the Wild won’t cut 2006 first-round pick James Sheppard loose this summer.

For the first time in Sheppard’s career, there’s a way for him to play next season in the minors.

Sheppard, a restricted free agent who missed all season with a broken kneecap, can be tendered a two-way contract in June because he played fewer than 180 games in the past three seasons and fewer than 60 this season.

A two-way contract allows the Wild to pay Sheppard significantly less than his NHL salary. Sheppard, who turns 23 on April 25, has scored 49 points in 224 games.

 

Subhed

 

Wild goalie coach Bob Mason drove to Red Deer, Alberta, on Friday to take in goalie prospect Darcy Kuemper’s Western Hockey League second-round opener against Medicine Hat. Kuemper gave up five goals and was pulled in a 9-1 loss.

In a first round sweep of Edmonton, Kuemper, 20, a 2009 sixth-round pick by the Wild, went 4-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and .948 save percentage. Kuemper led the WHL in the regular season with 45 wins, a 1.86 goals against average, a .933 save percentage and 13 shutouts. …

Chuck Kobasew returned after missing Thursday’s game for a personal reason. Jed Ortmeyer was scratched and likely soon reassigned.


 

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