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 gives up a "freebie" winner; Zucker set to make NHL debut

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 27, 2012 - 11:24 PM

Ryan McDonagh, the 2007 Minnesota Mr. Hockey, set up the New York Rangers’ winning goal by Ruslan Fedotenko with 6:23 left in Tuesday’s game as the Rangers knocked off the Wild 3-2.
The Wild played a strong game after a first period in which it took three penalties, dumped but couldn’t chase and tried hard but as usual couldn’t make anything happen.
But the Wild scored two power-play goals in the same game for the first time since Dec. 10 in the second period when Kyle Brodziak became the 14th Wild player to hit the 20-goal mark and Mikko Koivu scored his first goal since Feb. 16.
In the third, Henrik Lundqvist stoned the Wild a couple times, especially Devin Setoguchi on a point-blank chance, before the Wild just broke down defensively on the Fedotenko winner.
Nate Prosser turned the puck over first in the neutral zone, then in the defensive zone. The McDonagh outraced Cal Clutterbuck to a puck at the side boards in front of the blue line, chipped it by him and chased the puck down.
Prosser was caught unaware that Fedotenko was behind him and Chad Rau was out of position before the net.
Coach Mike Yeo was furious at what he called a “freebie” with the Wild doing so many good things. You can read about that in the gamer.
Some dude named Marian Gaborik also scored his first career goal against the Wild and 110th of his career at the X tonight. Wrister in front of the net like the old days. Few goal scorers in this league score more goals from in front of the net than Gaborik. He had a big smile after. "I heard boos. Doesn't surprise me," the all-time leading Wild scorer said. Read the rest of his quotes in the gamer. It was Gaborik's 38th -- third in the NHL. 

Jason Zucker will make his NHL debut Thursday as long as he passes Wednesday’s physical. Rau will likely be reassigned and won’t get to play the team, Florida, that drafted his brother, Kyle, who also smoked Zucker earlier this season in the Gophers-Pioneers game at DU.
Lots of ironies there, I suppose.
Zucker got to the arena in the third period and sat in the GM’s booth between brass members Jim Mill and Shep Harder.
GM Chuck Fletcher, out scouting potential top-10 picks, had a conference call and basically said the decision to give Zucker six NHL games now and thus burn the first year of his contract as opposed to signing him to an amateur tryout in Houston and having him get playoff experience came down to the fact the team simply wants him to get some NHL experience under his belt now heading into a big summer.
Just for my own amusement, I was going to continue that sentence to make it the longest run-on sentence in history, but I don’t want any of you keeling over from being out of breath.
Basically, they want Zucker to see how difficult the NHL game is so he knows what to expect heading into training camp. They also want the coaches to learn his game.
And, like I’ve said over and over again but management won’t say, they don’t want all their prospects that are turning pro at the same time to all have expiring contracts at the same time. However, Fletcher did note, and correctly, that none of us know what the new free agency rules will be after the collective bargaining agreement is negotiated between the NHL and the NHLPA.
The current agreement expires Sept. 15, and remember last time, unrestricted free agency dropped from 10 years to seven.
As I’ve been intimating for awhile, the Wild’s not going to be active in the college free-agent market. It did inquire about a few, but those guys have signed with other teams or are about to, like J.T. Brown, who is talking to Tampa, Philly, Boston and Carolina.
Basically, the Wild has a ton of prospects turning pro (maybe as much as seven) and it can only have 50 contracts and it needs to leave openings for Group 3 and 6 unrestricted free agent.
Boy, wouldn’t you hate if the Wild couldn’t sign Zach Parise because it signed some future career minor leaguer, eh?
Anyway, that is it for me. Read the gamer for Marian Gaborik and Ryan McDonagh color and the notebook for the Zucker signing. I’ll write another Zucker story for Thursday on his thoughts on leaving college and becoming the first Nevada-trained NHLer in history. By the way, contrary to web sites everywhere, Zucker was born in California, not Sin City. He moved to Las Vegas as an infant. The former Las Vegas Thunder stickboy played roller hockey until age six but learned to love ice hockey while playing with brothers Evan and Adam. He was so good, he moved to California at age 10 to play for the L.A. Hockey Club.
After two years, he returned home to play for the Las Vegas Outlaws AAA team before moving to Detroit at age 15 to play for Compuware.
I will be live in studio on KFAN at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The Florida Panthers come to town Wednesday!!!!
I hope you’re as excited as I am!

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