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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Luongo, Sedins blank Wild, which is winless in four

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 20, 2011 - 12:45 AM

The Wild's winless skid hit four games tonight with a 4-0 loss at Vancouver.

I'd be shocked beyond belief if Mikko Koivu doesn't play Tuesday in Calgary. Man, do they need him. With a leg injury, I just don't think the Wild wanted him to play back-to-back games. If he plays somebody comes out, which means I'd think tonight's extra, Chad Rau, probably returns to Houston.

Tonight, Daniel Sedin, last year's NHL scorer and one-half of the biggest weapon (Henrik's the other half) of the NHL's best power play, had the first assist on three goals in pretty fashion.

Daniel to Henrik across the slot after Henrik lost Darroll (Nik Backstrom just missed making the same). Daniel to Ryan Kesler after he saucered a pass over Nick Schultz's stick right onto Kesler's tape. Daniel to Alex Burrows after Colton Gillies lost his man and Daniel toe-dragged by a twisted Jared Spurgeon.

The game started great for the Wild. It skated, it hit, it forechecked, it generated chances. The Wild had 13 shots in the first, but with everything going well, Gillies took a terribly careless penalty.

Call it a bad call if you want, but I'm sorry, since the lockout, you reach in front behind in the neutral zone and stick your stick on a puck carrier's gut even for a split second, the refs will call it nine out of 10 times. Worst, if Gillies just moves his feet, he's twice as fast as Canucks defenseman Alexander Sulzer. The one thing Gillies can do well is skate.

Just an unacceptable penalty at that juncture against a juggernaut of a power play when your team's playing great. And of course, Sedin to Sedin, and the Wild goes into the dressing room trailing 1-0 in a period it played well in.

Gillies was also minus-2 in 9:32, meaning he played a part in three of four goals. Yeo said after this game that the Wild has to work to get Gillies, who played well the previous two games after a rough go for awhile, through this.

The Wild wasn't the sharpest to start the second, and then after Burrows, in Burrows fashion, nearly gave himself whiplash drawing a high-sticking minor from Dany Heatley to negate the Wild's lone power play 1:13 in, Vancouver made it 2-0 when Schultz had bigtime trouble pretty much every second after a faceoff with 25 seconds left in the power play.

(I'm so impressed with the above run-on sentence, I'm leaving it) 

Schultz and Mike Lundin were on for three of Vancouver's goals.

After it was 2-0, the Wild lost its game, coach Mike Yeo felt and began overpassing in a fairly impressive way.

"To start the game, our focus on shooting was much better," Yeo said. "And then all of a sudden we need a goal, and we started thinking, ‘I’m going to pass the puck in the net.’”

Yeo talked about some players who had very bad games: "As a team, we have to have from top to bottom every guy going out and playing his game the way he's supposed to play it really, really well. We have to play our team game, we have to stick with it. We're down bodies. We know that. But we're fine. We can still win games. I know that. But we have to every guy doing his job extremely well and we have to have our team going out with the right focus every shift."

Again, the Wild started real well tonight. Looked like the team of old. Then it lost its game. The longer this goes on, the more concerning it is because remember what I wrote during the Islanders game. I've seen this happen many times when a team's playing well, gets decimated by injury and then completely loses one's game and forgets how to get it back.

These next two games of this road trip are pretty massive heading into the Christmas break.

Backstrom, hung out to dry in front of his net at times, gave up four for the first time since Oct. 20 and second time this season. His start was surprising only because he’s 5-0 in his last six in Calgary with a 0.52 goals against average and .984 save percentage and hasn’t been scored on there in 125-plus minutes.
 

But Yeo started Backstrom over Josh Harding in Vancouver because he said Monday morning, “Let’s go after the win.”

The Wild didn’t get that win. Backstrom wasn’t pulled after two periods to rest him for the Calgary game, so maybe Harding gets the nod Tuesday for the first time since he hurt his neck Dec. 6.

Talk to you from Calgary.

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