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 players to gain extra motivation? Dads on the trip

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 17, 2012 - 2:53 PM

Afternoon from cold, wet Philadelphia, where believe it or not, I think I've given myself a concussion.

I at least got my "bell rung" in the only way a sportswriter could -- hitting my head on the ceiling of my regional jet when we pulled into the gate yesterday afternoon and the seatbelt light turned off.

Been loopy every since, weird sensations on the top of my head, headache last night, dizzy today. But my editor, Chris Miller, seems to have misplaced my baseline test, so I'll play through it tonight.

Went down to Wells Fargo Center this morning for Flyers and Wild skates. Philly's sporting venue complex looks naked without the Spectrum

 

 

(from my iphone, not that I condone not turning off all electronic equipment upon descent)

Life without Mikko Koivu for awhile will begin tonight when the Wild, "riding" a nine-game road winless streak, visits the Flyers.

Here's a Bovada prop bet (not that we condone gambling):

Will the Minnesota Wild be among the top eight teams in the Western Conference when Mikko Koivu returns to the lineup from injury?

Yes 1/1

No 5/7

The lines tonight.

Heatley-Cullen-Johnson

Powe-Brodziak-Setoguchi

Clutterbuck-Peters-McIntyre

Staubitz-McMillan-Wellman

Each line has one winger that "can score," one that's a worker. Yah, scoring's at a premium right now with a roster shattered by injury.

Josh Harding will make his fourth consecutive start, but for the first time in three games, Niklas Backstrom will dress. He lost six pounds, and for a guy with not a lot of weight to lose, he's having trouble gaining it back (I generously offered some of mine). He got sick on the flight home from Calgary nine or 10 days ago and couldn't beat the stomach bug.

Greg Zanon will be scratched. Carson McMillan, who scored in his NHL debut at Detroit last season, will make his season debut. He got the call over Chad Rau because of his grit, which could be useful in intimidating Philly.

This is the Wild's father/guest-son trip, and so far they're behaving, although coach Mike Yeo said he and the players beat the dads to sleep last night. They enjoyed the City of Brotherly Love nightlife, apparently, and currently are on a bus tour  of Philly's sights -- essentially designed by the Wild brass to get them out of the hotel rooms of their children so the sons can sleep in preparation for tonight's game.

The Wild will do the same Thursday in Toronto. In the afternoon while the players are sleeping in preparation for the Maple Leafs, the dads will take a tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Always neat to see the dads around wearing their sons jerseys. They all took a group photo on the ice this morning.

Kevin Johnson will get to see his son be a first-line wing tonight, Robert Powe will get to see his son Darroll return to Philly for the first time tonight. David McIntyre's dad isn't on the trip, but that's because his entire family will be in Toronto to watch his first-ever NHL game in his native Ontario on Thursday. Devin Setoguchi looks like his dad, Dale, Barry Spurgeon the size of his son, Jared. Terry Cullen talks nonstop like his son, Matt. Mark Sickman stood over the Mike Yeo scrum like he was his PR guy son, Aaron, ready to cut it off.

I should have an entertaining notebook tomorrow leading off with Nick Schultz's fanatic brother, Kris, who's a bit of a Twitter revelation @ripper5505. He's a superfan, has been known to light into Wild critics or give the Wild pep talks in his tweets. He's also a former pro hockey player and scrapper, so as Nick said, he should protect the dads tonight if the infamous Flyers fanatics get out of hand and start picking on the Wild jersey-wearing dads.

What else random stuff can I tell ya?

I think it'd be kinda cool and funny and awkward if Chuck Fletcher traded somebody during the father-son trip. I mean, do you still give the dad of that player a lift back to Minnesota or say, "You're on your own?" The sun's come out. I'm still concussed. Matt Read says hello. Clayton Stoner looks like he went 10 rounds with Tyson. As I noted yesterday, I'm hearing no Wild player in the All-Star Game for the first time in history. No JVR. Ilya Bryzgalov still thinks the universe is cool. Looking forward to checking in with Minnetonka's Jake Gardiner and Phil Kessel in Toronto. Looking forward to seeing my Toronto media pals in Toronto, including the great Pierre LeBrun, who's graciously picking me up for practice tomorrow. I'm road weary (12 days in Minnesota for me since Dec. 3).

OK, writing to do. Have a good afternoon everybody. I'll talk to ya after the game.

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