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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Calder Cup Finals begin tonight: Houston vs. Binghamton; Wild signs Foucault

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild off-season news Updated: May 27, 2011 - 11:13 AM

Update: The Wild signed 2009 fourth-round pick Kris Foucault to a three-year, entry level deal Friday. Currently in Houston on an amateur tryout, the forward led the WHL Calgary Hitmen with 25 goals and 48 points last season.

The Calder Cup Finals begin tonight in Houston at 7:30 when the Aeros -- the Wild's chief American Hockey League affiliate -- take on the Senators -- Ottawa's chief affiliate.

If you want to listen to the game for free, you can go to aeros.com and listen to the great Joe O'Donnell. You can also watch the game on ahllive.com for a fee.

Also, Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub (258 7th Street West, St. Paul) will be playing the Internet feed of the Aeros games throughout the series on its TVs, as well as Game 7 of the Boston-Tampa Bay Eastern Conference Final tonight, of course, and the Stanley Cup Finals.

Here is the series preview from theahl.com.

And here is the preview from the Aeros:

HOUSTON AEROS (Western Conference Champions)
vs. BINGHAMTON SENATORS (Eastern Conference Champions)
BEST-OF-7 --- TOYOTA CENTER (7:35 p.m. CST)

OVERVIEW
The Houston Aeros and Binghamton Senators square off in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals at Toyota Center on Friday. The series is a best-of-seven with a 2-3-2 format in which the Aeros have home ice advantage.

HOW THEY GOT HERE
HOUSTON
--- Swept the Peoria Rivermen 4-0 in the first round.
--- Defeated Milwaukee in seven games in the second round.
--- Defeated Hamilton 4-3 in the Western Conference Finals

BINGHAMTON
--- Defeated Manchester 4-3 in the first round.
--- Defeated Portland 4-2 in the second round.
--- Swept Charlotte 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

DID YOU KNOW?
--- The Aeros are the first AHL club ever to win a playoff series after relinquishing a 3-0 series lead.
--- With wins over Milwaukee and Hamilton in the last two rounds, Houston improved to 6-0 all-time in AHL Game 7’s.
--- Houston and Binghamton both reached the 2011 Calder Cup Finals after missing the postseason entirely in 2010.
--- Binghamton is the eighth consecutive East Division team to represent the Eastern Conference in the Calder Cup Finals.
--- Houston’s hockey history actually pre-dates that of Binghamton. The Houston Skippers began play at the Sam Houston Coliseum in 1946, changed their name to the Huskies, and were coached by Toe Blake during the 1947-48 season. The team won the USHL crown that season. Binghamton’s first pro team was known as the Broome Dusters in the NAHL in 1973.

2011 AEROS PLAYOFF NOTABLES
--- Houston’s 61 shots in Game 6 vs. HAM tied a team record for the second-most shots in one playoff game and were the most since Houston peppered Hamilton’s Ty Conklin with 84 shots in Game 2 of the 2003 Calder Cup Finals.
--- The 29:11 of overtime in Game 6 was the third-longest OT in Aeros team history.
--- The Aeros are 6-0 all-time in Calder Cup Playoff Game 7’s. This is the first Game 7 at home since the team began play in the AHL.
--- With the Game 7 win over Milwaukee, Houston joined the Maine Mariners (5-0) as the only franchises in AHL history with five Game 7 road victories to its credit.
--- The Aeros are 6-2 when scoring first.
--- Houston has outshot their opponents in 13 of 18 playoff games. They are 8-5 when doing so.
--- Opponents have scored first 10 times, but the Aeros have won six of those games.
--- The Aeros are 8-2 in games decided by one goal.

AEROS PLAYER NOTABLES
--- Maxim Noreau appeared in his 42nd playoff game as an Aero in Game 6 vs. HAM and cracked the top five for playoff games played in team history. He finished with an assist on Robbie Earl's second period goal to pull into a third-place tie with 16 all-time helpers along with Stephane Veilleux.

CALDER CUP FINALS SCHEDULE
2011 Calder Cup Finals (best-of-seven)
W2-Houston Aeros vs. E5-Binghamton Senators
Game 1 – Fri., May 27 – Binghamton at Houston, 7:35 CST
Game 2 – Sat., May 28 – Binghamton at Houston, 7:35 CST
Game 3 – Wed., June 1 – Houston at Binghamton, 6:05 CST
Game 4 – Fri., June 3 – Houston at Binghamton, 6:05 CST
*Game 5 – Sat., June 4 – Houston at Binghamton, 6:05 CST
*Game 6 – Tue., June 7 – Binghamton at Houston, 7:05 CST
*Game 7 – Thu., June 9 – Binghamton at Houston, 7:05 CST

PLAYOFF HISTORY, CONNECTIONS
--- This is the first time the teams have met in the playoffs.
--- The Aeros have never faced a team from New York in the postseason.
--- Binghamton’s Corey Locke is the Aeros single season (2009) playoff leader in points (23), goals (12) and PPG (6). Goaltender Barry Brust was an Aero from 2007-10.

AEROS GOALIES
--- AT HOME, Matt Hackett is 7-2 with a 2.33 GAA and .907 SV%. He went 3-1 at home in the Conference Finals.
--- ON THE ROAD, Hackett is 5-4 with a 2.94 GAA and .884 SV%. He is 3-3 in his last six road games.
--- Matt Hackett’s uncle, Jeff, led the Springfield Indians to a Calder Cup win in 1990 and was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, annually given to the most valuable player of the playoffs. He went 10-5 that playoff campaign.

LAST GAME QUICK RECAP
Jon DiSalvatore scored with 1:13 left in regulation to lead the Houston Aeros past the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-3 in Game 7 of the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Finals on Tuesday at Toyota Center. Houston earned the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as the American Hockey League’s Western Conference champions for 2010-11 and advanced to the Calder Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history.

AEROS SPECIAL TEAMS
POWER PLAY --- Went 6/30 vs. HAM… Went 6/32 vs. MIL in round 2… Went 3/24 vs. PEO in the opening round… Ranked 6th (20.2%) in the regular season… Jon DiSalvatore led the team with 14 PPG… Finished the season with goals in six-straight to set a season-high streak (18/45)…Also had goals in six-straight from Feb. 22-Mar. 4… Had multiple PPG in 16 games and was 12-2-0-2 in those games.

PENALTY KILL --- HAM went 6/25and scored three SHG… MIL went 4/30 in round 2… The Ads scored a SHG in Game 5… PEO went 3/12 on the PP in the first round… Ranked 22nd (81.0%) in the regular season… Carson McMillan led the team with three SHG… Opponents were 16/46 on the PP in the final eight games of the season… Allowed at least a goal in a season-high seven straight (Mar. 22 – Apr. 2)… Held opponents to one or no PPG in 15 straight games until TOR went 2-for-5 on Jan. 23.

AEROS REGULAR SEASON NOTES
The Aeros finished the regular season with a 46-28-1-5 (98 pts.) record for the No. 2 spot in the West Division. The Aeros had the most wins in both the division and the Western Conference. Only two other teams finished with more wins (WBS – 58, Portland -47). Milwaukee won the West Division title for the fourth time in eight years and topped 100 points for the fifth time since 2003-04. They finished with a 44-22-6-8 record.

Lastly, Finnish Rock Star Mikael Granlund has a new stamp in Finland thanks to his lacrosse style goal in the World Championships. Here's the stamp

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