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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Backstrom returns to cage tonight; Clutterbuck out with different but same injury

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild pregame skate Updated: December 10, 2011 - 1:01 PM

Afternoon from Glendale, where the Wild plays the Coyotes in an early 6 p.m. game tonight (7 p.m. CT)

Niklas Backstrom, who strained his groin Dec. 2 against New Jersey, will return to the cage tonight, but Cal Clutterbuck will miss his second game in a row with a charleyhorse -- only, amazingly, to the right leg, not the left one that kept him out one game after the Ryan Whitney knee.

Clutterbuck was hurt when he says he went into check Brent Burns in San Jose, he ducked and Clutterbuck ran into Burns' butt. It was a Burns collision that also injured Devin Setoguchi's right knee, by the way. Setoguchi is still walking gingerly but much better than a few days ago.

Backstrom is 10-6 all-time vs. Phoenix with a 2.02 goals against average and .936 save percentage, but there was a time when he never lost to them, so he's on a downward streak against them.

Tonight, Mike Yeo vs. his coaching mentor, Dave Tippett, for the first time ever. It was Tippett who coached Yeo for most his tenure in Houston and made him captain.

The Wild's looking to go 4-0 on the road trip. It returns home tonight, will take tomorrow off, will practice at home on Monday for the first time in like ever and then head to Winnipeg for Tuesday's game.

The Wild is the No.1 team in the NHL. The Houston Aeros are tied for the most points in the AHL. Very impressive, maybe more so what Houston's doing because they've had so many guys up here, they've been badly banged up, too, and GM Jim Mill keeps having to find guys in the ECHL.

Talk to you tonight.

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