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 heads north for exhibition opener

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild training camp Updated: September 19, 2011 - 4:17 PM

Sixty degrees in Edmonton on Tuesday. I feel like I've hit the lottery. 46 degrees when I walk out of the Rexall Place on Tuesday night.

Don't know too many times I've been in Edmonton where I could pretty much get away with not bringing a coat.

Just about 10 minutes ago, it was supposed to be wheels up for the Wild -- or at least the 22 players, coaches, trainers, broadcasters and PR guy heading to Edmonton for Tuesday's exhibition opener against the Oilers.

The Oilers have not yet announced their roster, but I put the Wild's roster on yesterday's blog (the one under this, so check it out). The only addition: As forward insurance, the Wild brought tryout center Taylor Peters, who plays for WHL Portland. He won't play if everybody else is healthy in the morning, but it's a clear reward and clear indication the Wild's intrigued by the kid.

Remember, the Wild has signed tryout kids before, like last year -- Joel Broda, Josh Caron and some guy named Jared Spurgeon.

Speaking of Spurgeon, he played 53 games for the Wild last season, but he's scheduled to play his first career exhibition game tomorrow. Just an ironic fact. Also, Matt Kassian's game in Edmonton will be his first in his hometown, and Fridley's Jarod Palmer is scheduled to wear an NHL uniform for the first time in his career.

Everybody else in the lineup has played an NHL preseason game at least, even youngster Brett Bulmer, who played well last September in St. Louis.

If you want live game updates from Tuesday night's game -- and frankly every exhibition game -- follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib. The game is also supposed to be streamed on edmontonoilers.com.

Coach Mike Yeo split the team into two practices today of 90 minutes each. He was mostly impressed that after the last one, pretty much the entire team stayed on the ice to work on stuff or mess around.

"I think it's a pretty good indicator that the guys are serious and have a good attitude to be at the rink. I love guys that love the game," Yeo said.

Yeo said in three days, the Wild's covered the whole 5-on-5 spectrum, offensively, defensively and in the neutral zone. On Tuesday morning, both with the group in Edmonton and the players left behind, the coaches will begin implementing special teams.

"The core of our game, we've covered it all," Yeo said.

As for the exhibition game, it'll be Yeo's first ever NHL game he'll get to coach. What will he be looking for?

"I want to see guys incorporate the way we want to play," Yeo said. "It's not just an evaluation, it's also a reinforcement. It starts [Tuesday] on the bench. When we're doing things the right way, when we're not doing things the right way, it's not like we're going to be coming down and yelling at a guy because it's not natural for them yet, but we as coaches just have to start reinforcing things. If something's outside the way we want to play the game, then they have to know. That's the only way they're going to learn.

"For we also what we're trying to build here is a winning culture. I want to see guys who make winning plays. A guy can deke through the whole team and score a great goal tomorrow, but if he turns the puck over continuously, doesn't play the system, then we know in the long run, we're not going to win hockey games with him. But if a guy goes out and shift after shift does things that give you the ability to win hockey games, ... whatever it is, I just want to see guys make winning plays."

Only injury update is Niklas Backstrom did practice today for the third day in a row, so clearly the issue that kept him out of the two scrimmages is a minor one. So I'd suspect he starts Thursday in St. Louis in a game that could feature the debut of the Devin Setoguchi-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley line.

That's it for me. I'll talk to you after Tuesday's morning skates. I'll also be on KFAN at 10:35 a.m. CT.

 

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