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's plan for Niklas Backstrom; Same lineup tonight vs. Blues

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: November 5, 2011 - 12:24 PM

Very, very loose but sharp morning skate down at the X today was followed by a very, very loose but sharp-witted locker room.

Players threatened to fine both beat writers the player levy of $250. Me, because I didn't turn my ringer off before entering the room ("You know the rules," said captain Mikko Koivu), the other because of his shoes. 

Players got their snazzy "Mo Bros" hats -- each personalized with number and nickname. And of course, I chirped Dany Heatley for his Badgers getting trounced 7-2 by my St. Cloud State Huskies (Andrew Prochno power-play goal).

"What is going on with them?" Heatley said of the Badgers. "Do I have to make a trip down to Madtown and give them a pep talk?"

Players -- and particularly equipment manager Tony DaCosta -- was all over Devin Setoguchi for continually snapping sticks like twigs during the skate. "That's $600 out of my budget," DaCosta chirped.

Fun morning to be at the X. We'll see if it filters into a fun night at the X.

Couple items:

--Same lineup tonight, meaning Clayton Stoner will get some more time to recover from his finger injury. Frankly, he could play, but coach Mike Yeo doesn't want to mess with a good thing. The 6 D going now are playing well, so Nate Prosser stays for another day and likely a lot longer. Greg Zanon appears as if he's stopped skating since I thought he aggravated his groin injury before practice Thursday. And Mike Lundin, although he's skating, is a ways off.

-- As I guessed on yesterday's blog, Yeo said the plan now is to start Niklas Backstrom Tuesday in Calgary. Josh Harding will make his fourth straight start tonight. They've got to get Backstrom between the pipes with a huge five-game trip on the horizon, and Backstrom has had great success in Calgary the past few years.

-- As guessed yesterday, Yeo is refusing to tell us how many scoring chances the Wild generated vs. the Canucks almost like he's embarrassed. He just said again, the Canucks weren't good last game. The Wild, I think, had well over 30. He wouldn't even tell us how few chances Vancouver had. Remember, coaches love to talk scoring chances, particularly after losses. How many 3-1 losses do you hear an NHL coach say, "Yeah, but we outchanced them 20-10?"

-- Chatted with Blues captain Scott Mellanby. He told me that the Blues alumni will be honoring longtime Blue Pavol Demitra, who died in the Russian plane crash in September, before Tuesday's game against Chicago. They picked that date because former Blues coaches Joel Quenneville and Mike Kitchen coach the Blackhawks. Several alumni will travel in for the game, including Curtis Joseph, Keith Tkachuk and Brett Hull.

Talk to you after the game.

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