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 mathematically eliminated, now stares down draft lottery

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Vikings draft, Wild game coverage Updated: March 26, 2012 - 8:45 AM

It took 3 ½ months, but the Wild, winners of seven in a row and 17 out of 21 when it traveled to Winnipeg on Dec. 13, finally got back at the Jets for ruining this season!
The Jets, who sit 10th in the East, got to watch the Wild travel east and lose back-to-back games to the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals – the two teams right in front of them in the standings.
The Jets are now six back.
Hey, payback can be painful sometimes.
The Wild’s now officially, mathematically, completely, utterly and absolutely … kaput. It will be playoff outsiders for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time in eight seasons. It hasn’t won a playoff round since 2003, which rumor has it was a year it advanced to the conference finals or something.
No, it’s true. Stephane Veilleux told me he was on that team, and I looked it up. It happened.
That seems like an eternity ago, as does that Dec. 13 game at Winnipeg when the Wild was still first in the league. Now? It is 25th – but one point up on 29th, which would give the Wild the second-best possibility of winning the April 10 draft lottery and the right to pick No. 1 in the June draft. In fact, read my Sunday column here, where I do look ahead a bit to the draft and some of the players in it.
It’d be nice if the Wild had an Alex Ovechkin, who scored a goal, had an assist, made a tremendous defensive play to deny Mikko Koivu on a shorthanded rush with Cal Clutterbuck, directed 14 shots at Matt Hackett and played 26:19 tonight because Dale Hunter opted to only play 11 forwards.
The Wild needs gamebreakers – something it has lacked since it lost Marian Gaborik in 2009 to the New York Rangers. If you don’t remember him, attend Tuesday’s game at the X because he’ll be there since he no longer strains his groin every other day.
Maybe this draft can get the Wild that gamebreaker, the type of guy that could bury a chance.
The shame of tonight’s game is for the second consecutive game, the Wild played a strong first period, created multiple turnovers and had plenty of chances to not only score first but mount a big lead.
But continuing the seasonlong theme, the Wild simply cannot score. Yet, give a team like Washington a chance or two, … and it’s 2-0.
Hopefully some of the prospects coming can develop into true threats.
In the meantime, there’s seven games left in this season. Matt Cullen will see a doctor Monday and he is likely done for the year. Read his comments in Monday’s notebook.
I really got nothing else for you. I can’t imagine you want any more game details, but if you do, read the gamer, where Steve Kampfer falls on the knife for his turnover that led to Washington’s first goal, where Devin Setoguchi talks about some of the chances he was denied on by Braden Holtby, where Mike Yeo justifiably bemoans a bogus penalty on Clayton Stoner that resulted in the Caps’ second goal. In the notebook, you can also read about the draft lottery situation and how the Wild still don’t know how to defend a 2-on-1.
The Wild’s not practicing Monday after playing three games in four nights and back-to-back on the road. The plan was for Niklas Backstrom to take shots, but I’d assume Josh Harding starts vs. the Broadway Blueshirts. Nighty night.

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