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 coach does some line tinkering at Saturday's practice

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: January 26, 2013 - 3:11 PM
Wild coach Mike Yeo tinkered with his second, third and fourth lines during Saturday’s practice at Scottrade Center, but it is unclear what exactly the lines will look like Sunday night against the St. Louis Blues.
 
That’s because the line shuffling was necessitated by Matt Cullen missing practice. Yeo said it was a maintenance day and that he expects Cullen to play, so that’ll mean the lines from practice will look different.
 
Afternoon from the press room at the Scottrade Center. Today in St. Louis, it’s all about Stan Musial. Musial was laid to rest today. Every local station televised the funeral service of the Cardinals great and funeral procession to Busch Stadium live.
 
Blues players will wear No. 6 Musial jerseys in warmups Saturday. The jerseys will be auctioned with proceeds benefiting Cardinals Care and the Blues 14 Fund.
 
Back to the Wild. As of now, Pierre-Marc Bouchard (one goal, one assist, nine shots) took Cullen’s spot on the second line and Yeo indicated that would probably stay because that line with Mikael Granlund (one goal, one assist, three shots) and Devin Setoguchi (no goals, one assist, five shots) needs some sort of spark.
 
Darroll Powe (no points, three shots) moved from the fourth line to the third in practice. My guess is that if Cullen (no points, seven shots) plays, he takes that spot next to Cal Clutterbuck (one assist, 11 shots) and Kyle Brodziak (one assist, two shots).
 
Then the question becomes, what’s the fourth line look like? Does Yeo go back with Powe-Zenon Konopka (no points, one shot) and Torrey Mitchell (no points, one shot) or does Matt Kassian get slotted in against the big, tough Blues?
 
If there was ever a time, this is it, and Yeo said the staff is thinking about that. But then the question becomes: who comes out? My guess is Powe, but Yeo indicated there are factors there that must be weighed if you play Kassian. He’s likely referring to the fact that Powe is Cullen’s penalty-kill partner.
 
Today’s message in practice was more of a net-front presence and shooting presence at 5-on-5. I’ll have more on this in Sunday’s paper, but Yeo is looking for the second through fourth lines to emulate the Zach Parise (three goals, three assists, 23 shots)-Mikko Koivu (four assists, 12 shots)-Dany Heatley (three goals, one assist, 16 shots) mentality.
 
But the reality is if you watch the Red Wings game over again, the Wild did control the entire first half of the game. It simply didn’t finish – a familiar theme with this team – and then at that key moment of pressing, it gets loose defensively, has breakdowns all over the ice and boom, goal against.
 
The biggest case in point was after the Wild failed on the second-period power play. Cullen’s pass to Setoguchi is picked off, Setoguchi idles back into the zone in a fairly dramatic way when you watch it again on video, Cullen skates toward Datsyuk and nobody picked up Henrik Zetterberg.
 
“Not enough awareness,” Yeo said. “That we haven’t been good the last couple games. We’re playing well, we’re pressing and the goal’s not coming and then you lose track and you lose focus on everything else. You can’t all of a sudden loosen up defensively.”
 
Again, look at Detroit’s goals. Three off rushes, one on a fluky deflection off Todd Bertuzzi’s shin, one power-play goal by Pavel Datsyuk where Ryan Suter doesn’t move Johan Franzen out of the crease.
 
But it was hardly your typical Red Wings game where the Wild got shellacked.
 
I talked to Suter today about his play – he’s been on the ice for eight of 10 goals against this year – and I’ll have those quotes in Sunday’s paper, too.
 
Jared Spurgeon did not practice again, so he’s doubtful against a very good Blues team that’s playing in Dallas Saturday night.
 
Maybe the Wild will catch St. Louis tied. It’ll be the Blues’ sixth game in nine nights.
 
Niklas Backstrom vs. Brian Elliott. The game is on NBC Sports Network.
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