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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11-game road slide is history, Wild enters All-Star break in West's top-8

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: January 25, 2012 - 8:13 AM

Wednesday morning update: Because the Houston Aeros have two games this week, the Wild will reassign Chad Rau, Matt Kassian and Jed Ortmeyer today. Due to roster limitations, the Wild could only reassign three for the NHL All-Star break. You can bet all or some will return to Minnesota after the NHL All-Star Game. The Wild is off until Monday at 2 p.m.

What an atrocious time for an All-Star break. The Wild’s rolling!
Hey, 2-game winning streak. Modest, yes, but for a team that had lost 15 of 17 and 11 in a row on the road, hey, it’s a start, especially when you play as well as they did tonight in a 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Wild defended well, worked its you know what off and spent most the night in the offensive zone. In the second period, for the most part, the Avalanche would get the puck time after time and either turn it over or have to chip it out and go for a change.
That’s the type of sight we saw from the Wild the past month.
But the Wild won consecutive games tonight for the first time since Dec. 8-10, won on the road for the first time since Dec. 10 and entered the All-Star break in the top-8.
Saturday, it was Chad Rau. Tonight, it was Carson McMillan. Different hero every night, like when the Wild won 17 of 21.
Poor guys may both get reassigned to Houston on Wednesday, but don’t worry, they should both be back after the break. Because the Wild is off for the All-Star break and the Aeros have two games before the AHL All-Star break, the Wild will likely reassign a handful of the minor-league guys (picking from Rau, McMillan, Jed Ortmeyer, Matt Kassian; I don’t think Nate Prosser because he looked to suffer a hand injury tonight).
They can’t assign em all because you still have to keep 18 healthy skaters and two goalies.
McMillan’s second NHL goal was a terrific breakaway goal that came actually off a 2-on-0 with Kyle Brodziak.
The series before McMillan goal was insane. Wild was pinned in zone for 30 seconds having trouble, then almost got caught on bad change.
But finally, Nick Schultz was able to clear to center. But just as it looked like the Wild was going to get caught on a desperation line change, McMillan stopped his route to the bench and stripped an oblivious Shane O’Brien. He then took off.
“I know what it’s like sometimes on a 2-on-0,” Brodziak said. “You get a little indecisive whether you want to pass or shoot, so I was just telling him, ‘Take it, take it all the way.’’
McMillan tucked it five-hole.
“They were forechecking, so I didn’t have time to get off the ice [after coming out of the box],” said McMillan, 23, the 200th pick in the ’07 draft. “I just tried to get stick on puck and I poked it through and I heard Brodzy yelling at me to go, so I just took off. I couldn’t be happier with the result.”
Justin Falk had a great game. Scored his first NHL goal in his 54th game and it came on his first pro power-play goal. Seriously. He didn’t even play the power play in the minors and was shocked when he was called to go out there. So was Mike Yeo, by the way, but that was the decision of Darryl Sydor.
But with Pierre-Marc Bouchard hurt, Matt Cullen playing up with Mikko Koivu hurt and Marek Zidlicky in chateau bow-wow (15-2 Wild’s last 17 games played without Zidlicky; 2-10-4 with him; #justsaying), guys like Falk and Schultz are playing the power play.
Schultz, by the way, was great again tonight for the second straight game. Walking the talk after his curse-filled rant after the Toronto game.
The Wild, during its 11-game road winless streak, was 2 for 31 on the power play. It also scored twice in the first period tonight, something it didn’t do in a period during the road slide.
Soooooooooooooo, what else?
Just a great effort in an arena that’s always a tonic to the Wild’s ills. 9-1-2 in its past 12 here, so maybe it’s good news the Wild’s next road game is here Feb. 2. In fact, the Wild left a ton of equipment behind because it returns here next.
I’ll write about this in Thursday’s paper probably, but you’ve got to love the enthusiasm the minor-leaguers brought here the last two games. They come up, they’ve got no clue everything the Wild’s been going through the last month. They just bring positive energy and effort and you never worry when guys like Rau and McMillan and Prosser (I don’t even consider this kid a minor-leaguer because he’s so doggone steady) are on the ice.
That’s it for me. Barring big news, expect a dormant blog until Monday as I’ll be jet-setting around our country the next week. But I'll update the blog Wednesday after the Wild's reassigns some bodies.

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