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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Lots of homecomings tonight in San Jose

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: November 10, 2011 - 3:21 PM

Afternoon from San Jose, where the Wild visits the Sharks tonight.

Nik Backstrom vs. Antti Niemi. Cal Clutterbuck returns to the Wild lineup tonight after missing Tuesday's game in Calgary with an upper body injury. Warren Peters comes out. Same defense pairings tonight as Clayton Stoner and his gruesome looking finger continue to recover.

The more we look at Stoner, the more this is obvious that this isn't simply Mike Yeo not wanting to mess with the D. Stoner is hindered by the injury and is frustrated.

Brent Burns held court this morning for some entertaining moments as usual, so check out the story I write on him in tomorrow's paper. I will let you know the Burns-Nick Schultz hair bet is over. Burns looks like Joe Dirt. Schultz has given up, will soon be getting  a haircut and paid up his end of the bet last night. Plus, he's been cheating, Burns says. (he has)

Burns could be a stallion tonight. He's so up for the game, my guess he'll be a plus-5 or a minus-5 -- by the end of the first period.

Coach Todd McLellan said his experience with young guys playing their teams for the first time is that they "sometimes have a tendency to get too wound up about it. I think of Burns and Setoguchi, when they arrived in Minnesota and San Jose, they were in diapers. They were that young,  they were underage players, the organizations were part of their family trees. And it's hard to leave your first teams. It's that emotional.

"Everybody has their own motivation [to the game tonight]. Some players handle it better than others. That's their responsibility. [Burns and Martin Havlat] have played a lot of games between the two of them. They've been in the league for a lot of years. The last thing I need to do is come in and fool with their minds before the game. I expect them to be at their best."

Havlat was his typical reserved self. He said he was surprised by the July 3 trade

James Sheppard limped over to the Wild room to talk to his old mates. He's still a ways away from playing but is skating now. Wild players were excited to see the 2006 first-round pick.

Got a lot of emails about referee Tom Kowal screaming at Mikko Koivu by the Wild bench the other night when Kowal was trying to talk to Mike Yeo. Talked to Koivu, and the fiery captain said, "I liked it. Lets me know he's into the game," and trust me, he wasn't kidding. Koivu likes fiery refs, and he likes Kowal as a ref.

 I've got a ton of work to do. Great stuff down at the rink of the Tampa-Philly incidents last night where Philly wouldn't advance the puck against Tampa's 1-3-1 trap early in the game. Mike Lundin was sensational on the subject. Remember, he played for the Lightning and in Guy Boucher's system last year.

But you'll have to wait for my Sunday Insider for that column.

Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Marek Zidlicky are the Wild players on this year's All-Star ballot. Voting concludes Jan. 4. The top 3 forwards, top 2 defenseman and top goalie play in the game. The rest of the teams are picked by NHL hockey ops in consultation with team GM's.

Talk to you tonight.

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