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 impresses in opener

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: October 9, 2011 - 8:18 AM

Sunday's coverage:

Game story

Notebook on Colton Gillies, Cal Clutterbuck responding to motormouth Derek Dorsett, Brett Bulmer's debut, Scott Arniel on Bouchard's infraction and odds and ends.

My first Sunday Insider on the quest to get rid of touch icing

Chip Scoggins' game column

Chip on Wild newcomer Darroll Powe

Tempered optimism, tempered excitement in the Wild locker room after this impressive 4-2 win over Columbus.

Yes, they were playing a team that played the night before. Yes, they were playing a team that, let's be honest, who knows how improved they really are from previous nonplayoff Columbus teams? Yes, they were pinned in their end for much of the third period, although I think that can be easily pinned on the double minor they had to kill to start the third and then the immediate penalty right after that was killed.

But, very, very good win whether this was against the Jackets or anybody else. That's because if the Wild plays the way it did in the first two periods tonight, it can beat just about anybody.

I just don't see a loss on the schedule.

They played fast, aggressive, in-your-face hockey. They got the puck out, got the puck up and got the puck in. They created oodles of chances, especially that stupendous first line of Devin Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley.

So many good signs tonight: Cullen's game, Scandella's game (hey, the way he played up to the point, he should be forgiven for fishing for his stick while Columbus created a 2-on-1 down to low en route to its late-game second goal), Bouchard's game, Backstrom's unbelievable game, the fact they scored 2 even-strength goals, the fact they went 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, the fact there was no second-period snooze, the fact you can take a 3-0 lead, give up a goal and immediately respond with a fourth.

That's the type of response the Wild hasn't done the previous three seasons.

Heatley and Setoguchi both scored in their debuts, Heatley scoring his 129th power-play goal and 59th winner -- both the most in the NHL since he entered in 2001.

Setoguchi hustled like usual and drew a penalty. Koivu was a horse. And Heatley had five shots, stick-handled by several Blue Jackets often, was very good defensively, like on the one PK late, where he bodied a Columbus player off the puck, stole it and cleared the zone.

He's just a constant, constant threat.

One little thing. Bouchard got a double minor late in the second for high-sticking Matt Calvert. Columbus wants him ousted from the league it appears, claiming it was a baseball swing to the face. The Wild's saying replays show Calvert lifting Bouchard's stick into his face. I never got the greatest look, but the latter is what I was tweeted by several Wild fans.

Columbus coach Scott Arniel said of Bouchard, who’s got 156 penalty minutes in 486 games, “It’s definitely an attempt to injure. Our whole bench saw it. Their whole bench saw it. We want to talk about getting hits from behind and shots to the head, but we allow a guy to stay in the game after taking a baseball swing at a guy’s face? That’s a joke.”

Like I said, just a good win with the type of pace and the type of threats and style that Wild fans or media aren't used to seeing from this team.

Great game. Good signs for the future. But it is one game. Let's see if it continues. Like all good coaches, Mike Yeo praised the Wild and its play, but says he expects more and know they can get there.

I'll give you a quick blog Sunday after practice and before my flight from Long Island. Or, maybe I'll blog from 36,000 feet. Internet, baby.

That's it. Check the coverage in the paper and startribune.com/wild. First Sunday column of the new season runs too.

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