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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Gilbert to make Wild debut tonight vs L.A. Kings

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 28, 2012 - 12:53 PM

The Wild plays host to the Kings tonight. The Kings are three points and two spots above the Wild in the standings, so if Minnesota is going to make a late push for a playoff spot, these are the game it must win.

The Wild didn’t even show for its game in Dallas last Friday and that loss put it in a whole world of hurt.

Hope you read today’s coverage. The Nick Schultz trade story is here with GM Chuck Fletcher also talking about the next step of the organization being to land that big fish. The Greg Zanon trade story is here with Josh Harding not being traded (I hear there was no firm offer) and odds and ends like Brad Staubitz being claimed off re-entry waivers, Clayton Stoner injury update and some transactions that were made to make three players eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs.
Tom Gilbert, the pride of Bloomington and proud Wisconsin Badger ,  will make his Wild debut tonight. No. 77, who’s good pals with Wild No. 1 center (for now) Kyle Brodziak, will be paired with Justin Falk tonight and is very excited. Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon will remain a pair, while right-shot defenseman Nate Prosser moves to left D with Kurtis Foster.

Right now, they will carry six D. Any injuries, Steve Kampfer is likely next on the list to be called up. There’s also Chay Genoway and Tyler Cuma (we may get our first look at the 2008 first-round pick at some point).

It’s funny, but GM’s always say how difficult it is to acquire right-shot D. The Wild has four in tonight’s lineup – Spurgeon, Gilbert, Prosser and Foster. It’s also funny, but tonight, the Wild defenseman with the most games in a Wild sweater is Foster, and he was re-acquired on Friday.

Lines remain the same from the San Jose victory, so Matt Kassian is the scheduled healthy scratch.

Remember, tonight’s puck drop is 6:30 p.m. because the game is on the NBC Sports Network. Dave Strader and Brian Engblom will be wearing the headsets.

Weird seeing Nick Schultz without a stall, I’ll tell you that. He’s been a mainstay locker-room presence since 2001. The irony is the Wild’s first game without Schultz on the roster since ’01 comes tonight against the Kings, who boast veteran Willie Mitchell – one of Schultz’s best buds.

But life goes on, and Gilbert should fit in well. He is definitely a great guy and is known to be that throughout the NHL.

“He’s a very, very popular guy with his teammates,” coach Mike Yeo said of Schultz yesterday. “He was a big part of this group. But anybody that has been in this league for awhile understands that this is part of the game. My understanding is that we’re getting a character a guy back as well.

“Our message to the players each and every night is we have to continue to shape our culture and our game and we believe this is a guy that fits in both areas.”

With Schultz gone, Dany Heatley and Matt Cullen, who split the A’s home and away, will become fulltime A’s. I never asked, but my guess is Brodziak gets the third ‘A’ until Mikko Koivu returns from injury.

Niklas Backstrom is in goal tonight.

That it’s for me. I’ll be on the Team 1260 in Edmonton at 2:25 p.m. CT and Hockey Night in Canada Radio Sirius 157 at 3:20 p.m. CT. I’ll also be shooting a video for startribune.com/wild this afternoon that will be posted before the game.

update: The Sharks have issued a statement on coach Todd McClellan, who was injured when tomahawked by a stick in the loss to the Wild at the X on Sunday: SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson today released the following statement: “Todd continues to make progress in his recovery from the stick incident in Minnesota on Sunday evening but is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Thus, he will not be behind the bench until cleared by doctors to resume his coaching duties, beginning with tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. While Todd will continue to provide his input on the team, we have full confidence in the abilities of Assistant Coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft to lead the team in Todd’s absence.Our main concern at this point is for Todd’s full and complete recovery.”


 

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