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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Wild risks waivers on Colton Gillies; Hackett vs. the Blues?; Yeo still fired up

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild player moves, Wild practice Updated: January 13, 2012 - 3:37 PM

As you know by now, the Wild placed struggling Colton Gillies on waivers this morning. If he clears at 11 a.m. Saturday, he will be reassigned to AHL Houston.

The question is if he clears. After all, he's a former first-round pick. He's big. He can skate. He's 22.

"With Colton, his effort and his attitude have been great," GM Chuck Fletcher said. "Assuming he clears waivers tomorrow, I think it'll be a great opportunity for him to go to Houston and get his game going. He's a young player, he's got a great future ahead of him, and I think this is the best decision for his long-term development. Obviously, there's a chance somebody could claim him, and that's the risk we're taking. But the status quo wasn't accomplishing what anybody needed to get accomplished. We needed to change it up for him and give him a chance to get his game going."

Coach Mike Yeo echoed Fletcher, saying there's few bigger fans of Gillies than him. But he said the time was now for Gillies to get his confidence back.

First, Marco Scandella. Now, Colton Gillies. I think it's getting to the point where Fletcher's going to do something to really get the attention of his struggling team.

Fletcher called yesterday's game an incredible disappointment, and he reiterated that he's been on the phone a lot. I'll let you hear more from Fletcher in Saturday's paper, but a taste: "But after a game like last night, when you have 12-15 players not going, one transaction isn't going to change a whole bunch."

Yeo was still fired up about last night's game, as was Fletcher. I'll have a story on that in Saturday's paper.

It'll be Jaroslav Halak in net for St. Louis and, maybe Matt Hackett, for the Wild. Yeo said there's a chance. Coach Bob Mason worked overtime with Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom after practice. Both have been sick, but both have lost their games a bit. Harding was just not good yesterday -- plain, simple. You saw it early. Slow to react to everything, and he gave up bad goals all night. And Backstrom, although sick the past three or four days too, has given up three or four goals in each of his past six starts.

So whether they're healthy or not, the Wild is at least considering changing things up.

Nick Johnson was up on the second line in practice, Casey Wellman was on the fourth. And Yeo said there's a "very good chance" Mike Lundin plays after being scratched in nine of the past 10 games. Thank goodness, because I bet my career on Twitter that he'd play.

The candidates to scratch are Greg Zanon, Justin Falk or Clayton Stoner.

"I’m still really fired up about last night, and I don’t like to make too many decisions when I’m this emotional, so I’m going to take some time this afternoon and think through all these things," Yeo said.

Very intense, surly practice by the surliest team in hockey right now. Physical, good battle level, Cal Clutterbuck's stick took a massively loud, angry beating on the corner boards.

"Everything we did was very purposeful to our game and making sure we’re putting it in our head of how we have to play and going out and executing that," Yeo said. "But to see the battle level, that was one thing I was happy with."

Wild's just not a confident team write now. Cue Yeo: "You earn confidence. Like, we’re probably not going into that game confident tomorrow, but if we go and play three games in a row where we bust our butts as hard as we can and play our game as hard as we can, then we’re going to feel good about that. We talked about this in Calgary. Like, it’s going to take some time. But then we came back with a good game, but then we took a big step backwards last night. I always believe that you earn confidence, that you deserve to feel good, that you feel that you deserve success because of the way you’ve practice, because of the way you’ve prepared. But if we’re just waiting for a result or some good fortune here to give us some confidence, then we’re going about it the wrong way."

Fletcher said in his eyes, the onus is on the veteran players to have the team prepared, and that was a big disappointment about last night. The vets didn't show at all.

Yeo said, "I’m focused on everybody. I ask everyone of our players to be leaders, and that’s not by the things that they say, that’s by the things that they do. And so that’s what we’re looking for right now. We’re looking for leadership in how you go out and do things. That’s what we’re going to be looking for tomorrow. I don’t care who it is. I just want to see a guy stepping over the boards and going out and playing our game and doing it our way. Once we get enough guys doing that, then we’re going to be in good shape."

Talk to you Saturday on the blog and in the paper. I'll also be on Beyond the Pond at 10:30 a.m. on KFAN.

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