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 back in Phoenix, where it was at its highest this season; Injury updates

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild practice Updated: March 7, 2012 - 4:58 PM

Technically, Winnipeg is the scene of the crime because that began the derailment of the season.
Starting with a 2-1 loss Dec. 13 in Winnipeg, the Wild is 8-22-7.
But here in Phoenix, I kind of feel like this is the scene of the crime. Remember, when the Wild beat Phoenix 4-1 on Dec. 10, it was the Wild’s 17th win in 21 games, its seventh in a row overall and team-record seventh in a row on the road. It was 20-7-3, 10-3-2 – both best’s in the NHL.
“There’s a lot of belief right now that we’re for real,” Kyle Brodziak, who scored twice to give him a team-leading 10 goals at the time, said after that game.
Cue the screeching car sound effect.
Just ironic that the Wild returns here feeling its doggone lowest after a 7-1 thumping in Denver. I’ll write a lot more about that contrast in Thursday’s paper. Besides the dozens of ranting emails I got from frustrated fans today, I’m getting a lot of understandable questions via email and tweets regarding the futures of GM Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo and whether either is on the hot seat.
The answer, as best as I can ascertain, is no, and I’ll write more about that and why in Thursday’s paper as well.
For the news, Cal Clutterbuck, who didn’t play Tuesday, didn’t practice.
“Still not feeling great,” Yeo said. “After the game he felt really good and came into today and is not feeling great.”
That sure sounds like a concussion to me.
“Sure hope not,” said Yeo. “But I’m not qualified to diagnose these things. We’ll certainly have to monitor it very closely. It stinks. We could definitely use him in the lineup, but we don’t want to put him at risk. Hopefully it’s just a matter of him not feeling well.”
I talked to Kurtis Foster. His bad tightened up last night, so before the game, he took a needle to the back. That’s why he barely played. He felt better today and practiced, but Yeo said Clayton Stoner, who hasn’t played since injuring his hip Feb.2, is very close to returning.
“We don’t want to put him in a bad spot,” Yeo said. “We want to make sure that he’s ready to go, but if he is ready to go, then we miss him.”
Back in Minnesota, I heard that Mikko Koivu and Mike Lundin skated in full pads today and Pierre-Marc Bouchard in a tracksuit.
The Wild got back to work today and Yeo said to expect new lines again against the Coyotes. Honestly though, what more can he do? The lineup is what it is.
I’ll write about this in Thursday’s paper, but seven guys will play against Phoenix that played in that Dec. 10 game. That’s how significantly different this current roster is from the one that led the NHL in points as of Dec. 17.
Still, Yeo thinks no matter what the lineup, every game is winnable.
“The thing that stinks about last night is we were going pretty good. We were going well, OK,” Yeo said. “But we’re not as sharp as we need to be. We don’t have a very big margin for error right now, but there’s just too many little details in the game that we pride ourselves in and we work on in practice and we do these things over and over again, and in practice we do them great, and then we get into a game, and [we don’t do it.] Maybe it’s a matter of stick on puck. Is that the difference in the game? No, but when you treat it like it is, then it could be the difference in the game. Maybe you create the turnover there and go the other way.
“It’s just a matter of focus and preparation. It’s a difficult time for everybody to get focused on all those little things when you have all these other things in your head, but that’s what we have to do.
“There’s no excuse for the way we played the game last night. We were OK, but then after that third goal, we completely unraveled. That goes down to preparation. That shouldn’t happen. We’re allowing too many goals in the net and I don’t care who we have here right now, the one thing we should have every game is battle level and a discipline and an attention to detail and a strong focus on the way we’re supposed to play the game and if we do that we should really give ourselves a great chance to win. Last night we just completely fell off.”
Like I said, I’ll have a column in Thursday’s paper on what’s gone on and what’s ahead.


 

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