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 returns to Ottawa after loss on Long Island

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: October 10, 2011 - 4:17 PM

 

 

With the Wild on its way to Ottawa as we speak, you can bet the above guys are preparing for the team's triumphant return to Canada's captital.

For the first time since the infamous truck fire that destroyed most the Wild's equipment Dec. 18, 2009, the Wild's back in Ottawa.

 

 

I have a pretty funny look back at that event in Tuesday's paper, and on the bottom of this file, you can read the original story from that night.

As for today's game, a 2-1 loss at the great Nassau Coliseum, the Wild rolled over and hit the snooze button as the cliche goes. Early game, and the Wild looked completely out of it during a first period in which it was outshot 9-2 and fell behind 2-0.

Despite completely taking over the second and third periods -- holding the Islanders to five shots in the final two periods -- the Wild just could never get that rally going. The Wild dominated the second, outshooting the Isles 10-2, but Al Montoya shut it down after having to be bored to death in the first.

Matt Cullen scored his second of the season 1:13 into the third, but the tying goal never came despite aggravatingly grinding it out. The power play was a killer today, going 0 for 7 with four shots.

Effort was not an issue in the final 40. The team worked impressively and physically. But the fast, aggressive Islanders, who did seem intent to win this one 2-1, still made it difficult in its own zone.

Then the last two minutes was an absolute mess starting with a poorly-timed lifting of Niklas Backstrom for an extra attacker. It came late in a shift with the second line. The puck was around the net, but it was turned over immediately.

Then the puck came to center ice, and with that second line going to change, Jared Spurgeon made a boo-boo and just flipped it to the Islanders. The Wild spent basically the next 90 seconds trying to get the puck back from the Islanders.

As Cullen said, the Wild felt it left at least a point here today.

Mike Yeo was very disappointed with the first period, as were the players. They lost battles, turned pucks over, skated over pucks, shanked pucks. Just everything was out of sorts.

But he was happy with the response, and he said that's what the Wild has to learn from.

Anyway, that's it for me. I've got to jet to LaGuardia so I can get to Ottawa in time for the Dany Heatley lovefest.

Here's the original equipment truck fire story:

By MICHAEL RUSSO
mrusso@startribune.com

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- The Wild’s been the hottest team in the Western Conference since mid-November, but it was taken to a new extreme Friday.
Much of the Wild’s hockey equipment was destroyed Friday afternoon when the back of the Ottawa Senators’ visiting team equipment truck caught fire in Kanata, Ontario.
The fire was discovered about 2:30 p.m. EST when equipment trainers backed the truck into the Scotiabank Place parking lot. The trainers had packed the truck mere minutes before following the Wild’s practice at a suburban Ottawa practice rink.
“The back was smoky, and we opened it up, and everything was on fire,” said bewildered equipment manager Tony DaCosta. “I don’t know what happened. It was a five-minute drive.”
Firefighters were called to put out the blaze, but most of the equipment was destroyed. Police are investigating the cause of the fire.
The Wild, 10-1-2 in its past 13, was taking inventory of what was lost, but the scene was confusing because burned equipment sat scattered and soaking wet. Hockey players wear their game gear in practice, so everything from skates to knee braces to shoulder pads to, according to goalie Niklas Backstrom, all of his and backup Josh Harding’s equipment, including their melted helmets, was destroyed.
Assistant equipment manager Brent Proulx flew back to Minnesota on Friday night and was to return to Ottawa this morning with new equipment.
GM Chuck Fletcher declined comment until today, but Wild players were informed during a Friday night meeting that after consultation with the NHL, tonight’s 6 p.m. game against the Senators will go on.
“Looks like we’re going to try to play, I guess,” veteran Andrew Brunette said. “I don’t know exactly everything that’s damaged. I guess we’ll go [this] morning and figure it out.”
There is no doubt this will be one of the most unique days in Wild history. Players are expected to arrive at the arena early to try to piece together equipment for tonight.
“I thought it was a joke, but it’s not,” said winger Martin Havlat, who says all of his equipment was destroyed. “This is not going to be easy to play.”
There are two areas of concern – comfort and safety.
Hockey is one sport where broken-in and properly-fitted equipment is critical. Hockey players are notoriously fussy about their equipment, and if they don’t feel right, they typically don’t play right. Also, helmets and knee braces must be perfectly custom fit.
Defensemen, like shot-blocking specialist Greg Zanon, have modified their equipment over several years in order to protect them in the correct places. Eric Belanger wears a custom-made foot brace after breaking his foot two seasons ago.
“There’s lots of superstitions with gear,” Havlat said. “You have to feel right. Some of the guys take a month, three weeks, two weeks to break in new skates. Every guy’s different. It’s going to be interesting what’s going to happen.”
Wild left wing Derek Boogaard said he’s had “the same shoulder pads since I was 12 years old. It’s definitely going to be different if I can’t scrape those out of my burned bag somehow.”
Brunette said, “I’m picky about gloves. I’ve got to wear gloves for a long time before I can play in them. I know my shoulder pads I’ve had since bantam hockey, so if those are gone, I’ll be screwed. I’ve worn one pair of shoulder pads forever.
“Knee pads, elbow pads, pants, those are pretty generic and easy to wear. The other stuff, not so much.”
Teammates were especially worried about Backstrom because playing goaltender is such a mental position.
“He’s one guy that could be affected. He’s pretty anal to begin with,” Brunette said, laughing.
Backstrom said, “You can’t worry about this. You can’t hide behind this. You can’t find any excuse. You have to do what you can do. These things happen. You have to find a way to play a good game [tonight]. It’s not easy, that’s for sure, but it is what it is. It’s only equipment.”
Brunette said the Wild must look at the bright side.
“I’m just happy the equipment guys are OK,” Brunette said. “This was a scary incident. When I found out, I didn’t know how severe this was, and I care about those guys a great deal. Other stuff, it’s just hockey equipment, you know? You’ll break it in sooner or later.
“You just have to be careful not to use this as an excuse.”
 

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