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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Heatley back at practice; Concern about Latendresse; New lines, power-play formations

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: October 25, 2011 - 3:10 PM

I'll be live in-studio with Paul Allen on KFAN from 9-9:35 a.m. on Wednesday

Day 2 of the Wild's three-day mini training camp continued this morning at the X with another long practice, then off-ice workout in the afternoon.

Dany Heatley returned to practice, but Guillaume Latendresse and Greg Zanon missed practice again. And considering they have been off the ice since last Thursday's game at Edmonton, coach Mike Yeo said it will be "pretty tough" for either to play against Anaheim.

Both have groin injuries, and considering Latendresse's issues last season with sports hernias, groin tears and hip problems, you know the Wild will be extremely cautious here with the big power forward. I mentioned on my blogs over the weekend that this should be a matter of concern, and Yeo admitted as such today.

He has not been scheduled for any MRI as of yet. He's just staying off the ice.

As for the lines today, Cal Clutterbuck moved up to right wing on the Heatley-Mikko Koivu line, while Devin Setoguchi moved to right wing on the Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Matt Cullen line. Yeo stressed how happy he's been with Clutterbuck's game recently and he hopes the line "provides a fresh start and something to feel good and excited about."

As for the power plays, the new formations:

No. 1 unit: Heatley-Koivu-Clutterbuck; Matt Cullen at point with Marek Zidlicky; No. 2 unit: Bulmer/Brodziak/Johnson with Bouchard-Setoguchi with Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon at the points.

Basically, Yeo worked in Bulmer, Brodziak and Johnson on the power play today. If the unit changes on the fly, it's not necessary that Brodziak be out there. If the unit changes before faceoffs, Brodziak would be the centerman, especially in situations where the faceoff is in the right circle.

The units, Yeo said, have been designed to give each player a clear identity. On the first unit, Clutterbuck's job is to get to the net. Heatley's job is to get to the slot in shooting positions. Previously, Heatley often had to be the net presence guy. Well, he's a shooter. On the points, Cullen and Zidlicky's job is to shoot. On the second unit, Bulmer/Brodziak/Johnson are the net presence guys, Setoguchi's job is to shoot.

We'll see if it works. Koivu joked that he got almost no power-play practice today. Yet again, like his chin is a magnet, one drill into power-play work, Koivu was elbowed on the chin and his deep gash began to leak again. So he headed to the bench for repair by trainer John Worley.

Koivu is also pretty uncomfortable now. He's unable to shave around the area, so he's beginning to look like Jason Motte.

I've gotten a ton of questions about Bulmer's future because Thursday is Game 9, meaning the Wild could send him back to Kelowna of the WHL prior to Game 10 without the Wild burning the first of his three-year deal.

Remember though, prior to the season, the Wild's position was it could care less about this threshold. With so many youngsters starting contracts in the next few years, it actually would benefit the Wild to burn the first year this year. You don't want all these contracts expiring at the same time, or that could become very problematic. The threshold GM Chuck Fletcher will always be concentrating on is the Game 40 threshold. If he is on the roster for 40 Wild games, his seven-year free-agent clock begins.

Fletcher reiterated that again today, but mostly in the context that Bulmer's been getting better and lately has been one of the Wild's best forwards. So barring some big roster shakeup where a trade was made and players had to be added, I think Bulmer continues to stick.

"Every day in the NHL is an important day, so if he's continuing to develop and improve as a player and making contributions to our team, then I'm not sure why we're bringing academic arguments into the equation. If he can't keep up or he's not contributing, then clearly it's in everyone's best interest to send him back. But to me, he's a much better player today than he was the first day of training camp," said Fletcher. "We'll see. Again, we have some tough games coming up. There will be lots of challenges for Brett. But he seems to be the type of kid that relishes those challenges as opposed to getting concerned about them."

Again, I'll take Fletcher's word at face value. He says the 10-game mark is a non-issue, and are you really sending Bulmer back when he's been one of the team's best forwards lately? He has no goals and three assists in eight games -- the same numbers as Mikko Koivu in 10 fewer minutes a game and 28 fewer minutes total on the power play.

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