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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Kyle Brodziak receives 3-year contract extension; Wild shuts out Bruins

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage, Wild news Updated: February 20, 2012 - 11:19 AM

Monday update: With Warren Peters eligible to return Thursday in Florida, Jeff Taffe was reassigned, meaning Chad Rau stays.

With the trade deadline approaching Feb. 27, the Wild re-signed arguably it's biggest potential free agent after Sunday's 2-0 win over the Boston Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak has signed a three-year contract extension worth $8.49 million. That's an annual salary-cap hit of $2.83 million.

He was all smiles afterward.

"I’m really happy," Brodziak said. "Just happy it’s done with and now I can concentrate more on playing hockey."

As I wrote the other day, Brodziak was not enjoying this process at all. In fact, the quote was, "I hate it."

"I’ve never had to deal with anything like it before, so it was definitely on my mind," Brodziak said. "I’m happy to be part of the organization for a few more years and looking forward to it.

"My goal as a player is to keep getting better every year. There’s definite belief in this organization. I want to be part of building it into a winning team. The culture is changing around here and I just want to be part of the future and helping to turn this around into a winning club."

As Chuck Fletcher talked about in early December, he's seen an evolution this season with Brodziak into a leader off the ice, and of course, his play on the ice has been getting better. He's versatile enough where he can move up in lines, like the last few games where he's been the top-line center with Mikko Koivu injured.

Brodziak has scored 40 goals and 98 points in 221 games with the Wild. He's missed two games here with the flu.

As mentioned, nice win for the Wild, stunning considering what's been going on lately and coming off yesterday's awful 4-0 loss in St. Louis.

Chad Rau, just recalled with Warren Peters suspended one game, scored the winning goal -- his second winning goal out of his two in his career. The other came on Hockey Day Minnesota and columnist Jim Souhan wrote a nice piece of Rau for Monday's newspaper. He was in Abbotsford, B.C. when he got the call at the end of a six-game, 13-day trip with the Aeros.

He had to rush two hours to Vancouver airport, fly to LAX and get on a 12:20 red-eye (I've taken that flight a gazillion times) and got in shortly after 6 a.m.

Regardless of Rau scoring, coach Mike Yeo said, "Really impressed with his game. You’re going out and playing a heavy, hard team. I thought his d-zone coverage was very strong, I thought his puck execution was very good. He knows when to make a smart play and when to make more of a skilled play. And I was impressed with his puck strength."

What Yeo loves about Rau is he just doesn't come into the lineup and try to fill-in, take a spot. He tries to make an impact. His goal was great tonight, looking off Marco Scandella forever before whistling one by Tim Thomas just past the 25-foot stick of Zdeno Chara.

He didn't get a shaving cream pie to the face this time, which he was "grateful" about.

Matt Cullen snapped a 15-game goal drought. He was bigtime relieved, and I'll probably write about that in either Tuesday's paper or Wednesday's.

And Niklas Backstrom made a career-high 48 saves for his 26th shutout and fourth of the season. The Wild is 10-1-1 all-time vs. the Bruins (outscored them 35-15). He is 4-0-1. It snapped a five-game winless streak for Backstrom.

Yeo said he talked to Backstrom before the game: "It's one position where you're solely judged on your wins and losses. It’s been a little bit unfair because of our struggles as a team. … What we talked about, focus on playing great. You can’t control a lot of the other things."

"It’s the best team you can play, won the Cup last year," said Backstrom. "It’s a big challenge. You always want to measure yourself against the best."

I thought Marco Scandella was terrific tonight. Seven blocked shots. The Wild had 24. Greg Zanon, four blocked shots and four hits. Matt Cullen and Erik Christensen won 20 of 30 faceoffs. Marek Zidlicky competed real hard after a very tough start.

Too bad the Wild can't come right back and play Florida tomorrow or the next day. It next plays there Thursday in the front end of a tough, tough back-to-back. At Florida, At Dallas.

That's it for me. Barring news, no blog Monday as the Wild has the day off. I will be on KFAN at 9 a.m.

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