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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Clutterbuck, Powe injured? No problem as Wild pulls another W out of its hat

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 1, 2011 - 12:53 AM

My 7-10 day prediction of Bruce Boudreau being out of work on Twitter the other day turned out to be conservative.
The former Washington Capitals coach will be behind Anaheim’s bench when the Wild waltzes into town Sunday and Randy Carlyle will not. Carlyle lost his job tonight, and that noise in southern California tonight was that of a lot of celebrating players -- not an earthquake.
I was writing about the Ducks in my Sunday column this week anyway, so now my Carlyle criticism will have to be freshened up.
But onto the game at hand and what Wild fans care about.
For the second time this season, the Wild, which make comebacks a common thing, rallied from a two-goal deficit to pull out the W tonight with a six-round shootout win over Edmonton to move back into the top spot in the NHL.
It’s actually the ninth time the Wild’s pulled out a W when being scored on first, and that ranks first in the NHL. The Wild went 11-4 in November, a new team record for most wins in a month, and its 33 points in 25 games is its best start in team history.
Tonight, the Wild won despite injuries to Cal Clutterbuck and Darroll Powe.
Tonight, the Wild won despite a terrible 5-on-3 with a chance to tie in the first period.
Tonight, the Wild won despite being down 2-0
Tonight, the Wild won despite not scoring on a 4-on-3 in overtime.
Clutterbuck was nailed by an extended left knee of Ryan Whitney in the final minute of the first period. He tried to play in the second but eventually left about eight minute in when he fell again after Ladislav Smid stepped into him.
“I didn’t like it,” coach Mike Yeo said of Whitney’s hit. “I know Ryan Whitney well (from Pittsburgh). I know he’s not a dirty player, but I thought that was a penalty and we lost a guy for … hopefully only for tonight.”
Yeo said it was a thigh injury.
The Wild also lost Powe to start the third period. He was nailed late in the second when it looked like he was checked into an open door at the Oilers bench by Eric Belanger. He has a charleyhorse. Yeo said both players will be reevaluated and prays they're short-term injuries. Both players have been key, key contributors, and Clutterbuck has been heating-up.
That left the Wild with 10 forwards, really nine because Brad Staubitz played one shift in the third.
But moments after Clutterbuck left, Devin Setoguchi scored, then Kyle Brodziak tied it.
Brodziak, who hails from nearby Vegreville, Alberta, and was drafted by the Oilers, then scored his first career shootout goal in Round 6 to lift the Wild to the win with a move he said Dustin Penner taught him. The Wild practices shootouts all the time, and he said he tries that move every time.
I thought about this after the game, but two years ago, in that long eight-shootout win by the Wild in that four-goal erased deficit vs. Chicago, Brodziak got an attempt and it was awful.
I just looked up this funny quote to me the next day: "I was getting nervous when I saw some of the picks," defenseman Nick Schultz said, laughing. "When I saw Brodziak go, I figured I might be next."
Well, Brodziak won it tonight.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored, as did Mikko Koivu with his 25th shootout goal, tied for fifth in NHL history (three behind Jussi Jokinen). Dany Heatley scored a bigtime clutch one to extend the shootout. Niklas Backstrom got the win and improved to 3-1 in shootouts. The Wild is 4-1.
The Wild’s power play was awful tonight and has got to get better. It’s time for Yeo to change the personnel of the No. 1 unit, maybe at the point, where Jared Spurgeon and Pierre-Marc Bouchard just hasn’t been good enough. Spurgeon can’t keep pucks in. Time for Matt Cullen to go to the No. 1 point until Marek Zidlicky comes back, in my opinion. Also the Mikko Koivu to Dany Heatley high deflection is becoming way too predictable and isn’t working.
Koivu, by the way, extended his point streak to seven games tonight. That ties his career high.
Backstrom was real good tonight. He made 28 saves and improved to 21-2-1 all-time vs. the Oil.
Marco Scandella had a real tough game in his own zone at times. His turnover and then positioning led to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ first goal.
Again, the Wild just sticks with it. People always ask me, what does it mean when a team buys in? This is the definition, folks. Many teams, when the going gets tough, they change up everything, open things up and a 2-0 deficit becomes 3-0 and 4-0. The Wild just sticks with the system and sticks with the system, and that's why they keep carving out these comeback wins. If they lose, they lose, but they don't change their style.
“It shows you’re unflappable,” Brodziak said. “No matter what they bring, it’s not going to change how we play. Over a 60-minute game, that wears on teams.”
Anyway, that’s it from here. Early flight back to Minnesota. Wild practices at 2 p.m., so there’ll be late updates most likely on Clutterbuck and Powe.


 

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