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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First place in the Northwest Division on the line tonight between Wild and Canucks

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 10, 2013 - 6:43 PM

A regulation win at home by the Wild over the Vancouver Canucks tonight would move the Wild into a tie with the Canucks with 28 points. But with tiebreakers, the Wild would technically be first in the division.

Three weeks ago, the Canucks were off to an 8-2-2 start and running away with the Northwest. But they're 3-4-4 in their past 11 and have one win in their past six. The Wild has climbed back in thanks to an 8-4-1 stretch.

"They're not handing out first-prize in our division tonight, but this is just another step along the way," coach Mike Yeo said. "Certainly, as a club we have to be excited about this opportunity. ... We're going to be ready to put a lot on the line tonight."

Niklas Backstrom gets the start for a rare back-to-back for the veteran. In his career, he has started consecutive games 18 times. He is 9-6-3 with a 2.94 goals against average and .914 save percentage. He is 1-2-3 in the last six back ends of his back-to-backs. He last started one Feb. 24, 2012.

When he has started back-to-backs, only four of the back ends have come at home.

Same skaters tonight, meaning same lines and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund and Nate Prosser are scratched.

Update: Tom Gilbert is sick, Chuck Fletcher says. Prosser will play.

Talk to you after and please follow me on Twitter at @russostrib.



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