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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Healthier Wild looks to get on track in Vancouver

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 4, 2012 - 2:10 PM

Afternoon from rainy Vancouver, where the Canucks and Wild clash in the final meeting of the season at least in Vancouver. Wild is 0-2 this year here and 0-7-2 in its past nine. Last game, it got lit up by the Sedin Twins and Ryan Kesler after playing real well in the first period before a penalty derailed things.

The Wild's getting healthier. Here a few weeks ago, the Wild was without Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, Casey Wellman, Guillaume Latendresse and others. As Roberto Luongo said yesterday, it was not a true mark of the Wild's talent up front.

Tonight, Koivu will be in the lineup, and Setoguchi and Wellman are expected to return. Maybe that, and the fact that the Canucks -- or at least their media -- are looking ahead to Saturday's Stanley Cup Final rematch with Boston, will help the Wild get on track tonight.

Josh Harding will start in goal tonight. Niklas Backstrom has given up 18 goals his past five starts and rarely loses in Calgary, so rest him and get him ready for that game (even though Backstrom bizarrely didn't start in Calgary last trip to Vancouver-Calgary).

Scratches tonight will be forward Brad Staubitz and defensemen Greg Zanon, Mike Lundin and Clayton Stoner.

It was tremendous being able to watch the world juniors yesterday from inside Canada. The atmosphere at local bars is akin to March Madness in the States. The near third-period comeback by Canada from 6-1 down to Russia was something to be seen. The Canadians came a goal post in the last minute short.

So now, for the first time in 11 years, Canada won't be playing for gold. They'll face Mikael Granlund and Finland in the bronze-medal game tomorrow and Johan Larsson, Jonas Brodin, Johan Gustafsson and Sweden will take on Russia in tomorrow night's Final. The Swedes beat the Russians in overtime last week.

Granlund looked devastated after losing the puck yesterday in the shootout to send Sweden to the gold-medal game. He's usually money in those situations, having delivered on the big stage countless times. But some Wild execs exchanged text messages with him last night and he seemed OK. It'll be awesome to watch the three Wild prospects play for gold. Chuck Fletcher, Brent Flahr, Jim Mill, Guy Lapointe and Gang will be there in person to watch.

I'll write a lot more about world juniors this week.

I'll be on XM Home Ice at 1:45 p.m. CT and the Team 1040 in Vancouver tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT

Update: Goalie Matt Hackett and center Jon DiSalvatore of the Houston Aeros have been named to the AHL All-Star Classic.

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