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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Sunday will be Mass Exodus Day at Wild headquarters

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage, Wild training camp Updated: September 24, 2011 - 6:37 PM

It'll take a while for the Wild to talk to all the players, so I'd suspect an early-to-mid afternoon announcement.

But on Sunday, the Wild will dramatically cut down its roster, which stands at 46 right now.

I'd think the Wild gets into the high 20s. The Wild's expected to keep 13 forwards and seven or eight defensemen.

With defenseman Mike Lundin still out with back spasms (he'll be evaluated again Monday) and right wing Brad Staubitz suspended, the Wild may keep a couple extras.

But mostly, Yeo said, the Wild will get down to its team.

Who stays? Who goes?

I think on the blue line two guys definitely staying right now are Marco Scandella and Justin Falk. Yeo raved about Scandella to me before the game, and even though his 19 penalty minutes (read the "gamer" that'll be in the paper Sunday for an explanation) essentially cost the Wild three power-play goals in a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh, Scandella even further impressed Yeo because he was standing up for Matt Cullen, who was driven into the boards.

With Lundin hurt, I think Yeo believes Scandella can play top-four minutes right now.

“I look last night, a couple things stood out," Yeo said of the Columbus game. "One time he’s going backwards stride for stride with Rick Nash, and Nash puts on the brakes and Marco stops with him, stays right on him and is able to take time and space away. Not many people can defend Rick Nash like that."

I think Falk stays for numerous reasons. 1) What else does he have to prove in the AHL. 2) He's a mobile, good-passing defenseman who is definitely making it a conscious effort to play like a 6-5 defenseman should -- physical; 3) Mike Yeo's seen the best of Justin Falk, and that was during last year's Calder Cup playoffs; 4) He requires waivers to get to the minors; 5) We're talking about the No. 7 defenseman spot.

"He’s a guy with good reason we’ve been giving a very strong look," Yeo said. "I don't know if he’ll be the toughest defenseman ever to play the game, but what he does do, he does well."

My big question is does Jordan Hendry earn a longer look Sunday or a contract? He's experienced and can provide steady minutes on a blue line that's pretty inexperienced. But he's had an up and down preseason. If it were me, I'd offer him a two-way contract.

I think right now Nate Prosser probably lands four, at least in management's mind. Just my opinion, but it's the sense I get.

Up front, we're talking about a 13th forward spot. I'd think they keep Jed Ortmeyer, who's played over 300 games in the NHL and whom Yeo adores, for now, and maybe Warren Peters. I still think Jarod Palmer and Carson McMillan are destined for Houston.

Cody Almond is out of sight, out of mind right now. He's got some sort of injury, originally said to be a back by GM Chuck Fletcher. He won't say that now, meaning that MRI might have shown something else because Fletcher would only say he's not ready to play.

Casey Wellman played his first game tonight and I'd think the Wild would want to keep him to give him some games this week, especially with Staubitz suspended. It gives an open spot to see if Wellman can impress.

But after tonight, the Wild's got to get to its team and start gaining some real chemistry, especially on the power play.

The PK was beaten four times today, but the power play was very concerning. It went 0 for 9 and it was stationary, predictable and allergic to passing.

Most disconcerting, it was the No. 2 unit. Matt Cullen had a very, very tough game. Jared Spurgeon, who scored two goals in Edmonton, refused to shoot. Gui Latendresse only had one shot. Wellman was rusty (Ok, he's not on the No. 2 unit). And Bouchard also wasn't his dynamic self and over passed.

"It's a simple recipe. They shot the puck and we didn’t," Yeo said. "… We refused to shoot the puck. We have to deveolop that shooters mentality. If you want to hang onto the puck for three seconds and try to make a finess play and find an open net, it's not going to work against good penalty kills. ... We have to be committed to ripping the puck, especially from the blue line."

Again, the power play looked great against Columbus, and that unit consists of Setoguchi, Koivu, Heatley, Zidlicky and eventually Bouchard.

"Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who’s not known as a shooter, will be with Zids, and Zids has got a cannon," said Yeo. "And we’ll make sure whoever’s playing with Spurg will be somebody who’s willing to shoot the puck there."

Frankly, that guy should be Cullen, who scored a lot of his goals last year in the first half by shooting from the point. But he didn't have a shot on goal tonight.

Talk to you Sunday after I get back to Minnesota.

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