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 closing in on first playoff berth since 2008; Pominville injured

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: April 24, 2013 - 10:09 AM

UPDATE: Brown has a noon CT hearing today for the Pominville elbow. With two games left in the Kings' season, it wouldn't shock me if he got two games.

 

Needless to say, big 2-1 win by the Wild tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. It arguably deserved better in the past two home games against Columbus and Calgary but hung on tonight after Charlie Coyle and Cal Clutterbuck scored 16 seconds apart in the first period.
 
Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves – 12 in the third, including a clutch right calf save (funny quote in the gamer) to rob Slava Voynov (up and coming defenseman) with 11 seconds left.
 
A Wild win in either Friday’s game vs. Edmonton or Saturday’s at Colorado, and the Wild makes the playoffs for the first time since 2008. There could also be other scenarios popping up in the next day or so, BUT, if Columbus loses to Dallas on Thursday IN REGULATION, the Wild clinches a playoff berth even before Friday’s game.
 
More on this below, but the only teams chasing the Wild now is Columbus and Detroit. Dallas and Phoenix can’t catch the Wild anymore.
 
Just big performances all over the ice tonight. I almost feel badly pointing them out because I’ll no doubt miss a few, but …
 
--Norris Trophy contender Ryan Suter gets 32:17 – his ninth 30-minute game and fifth in the past nine games.
--Jonas Brodin, the youngest defenseman in the league at 19 and what should be a slam dunk Calder finalist if my PHWA brethren are paying any attention, played a career-high 29:22 in a must-win game, assisted on Clutterbuck’s goal and made heady plays all game.
--Clutterbuck, moved to the second line to bring a forechecking, net-front element to a line coach Mike Yeo feels has gotten too “perimeter,” scored a goal, did his job all night, had some huge backchecks and got six hits.
--Mikko Koivu strong all over the ice. Five shots, 11 of 19 in the circle, made a ton of great defensive plays and was outstanding on the shift that he and Zach Parise helped create Coyle’s goal.
--Coyle. Enough said. Stud.
--Tom Gilbert assisted on Coyle’s goal and blocked a huge shot on Jordan Nolan after a Koivu turnover.
--Setoguchi had three shots, an assist, five hits.
--I thought the entire blue line was good, especially Clayton Stoner.
 
Things could have easily unraveled for the Wild in the second. Not just the last-second goal by Jeff Carter, which could have been a momentum-turned by the Western Conference’s goal leader with 26.
 
I’m talking about the fact that referees Dan O’Rourke and Don VanMassenhoven – and two linesmen -- somehow didn’t see Dustin Brown’s blatant elbow to the face of Jason Pominville.
 
Pominville was dazed, confused and stumbled off. Here is the video.
 
Brown said “he was coming to hit me. I was just bracing myself.”
 
Brown, who amazingly has never been suspended, does this time and time again and somehow gets away with it. In my opinion, he should have gotten suspended for what I thought was a very dirty elbow on Dallas’ Antoine Roussel two nights ago.
 
We’ll see if he gets away this one. He didn’t brace himself. He swung his elbow sneakily into Pominville’s face, and even though Yeo didn’t provide a report postgame with the dreaded “C” word, it sure looked like it. Frankly, and maybe one reason why Yeo was restrained after the game, the Wild probably doesn’t want L.A.’s captain suspended. The Kings play in Detroit on Wednesday.
 
Tons of tweets about the Wild’s lack of reaction or going after Brown later in the game. All I can tell you is Zenon Konopka and Brown were on the ice once that I saw the rest of the game and Brown humorously sprinted to the bench. And in a 2-0, 2-1 game in a must-win game and in a stretch where the Wild’s gotten zero benefit of the doubt from the zebras, I think you play it smart and go for the, uh, must-win and not risk doing something idiotic as some kind of retribution.
 
Big loss if Pominville is hurt. There’s no Wild practice Wednesday (one of the four mandatory days off per month in the new CBA), but my guess is the Wild needs a callup by Thursday. Stephane Veilleux did have to go back technically for Konopka’s return tonight.
 
Could we see Jason Zucker back up? Maybe a Justin Fontaine? Or maybe Veilleux? Or, maybe Mike Rupp will be ready?
 
The refs also missed a clear hold by Matt Greene on Pierre-Marc Bouchard as Bouchard tried to beat out an icing one shift before Carter’s goal, but hey, maybe the refs had a flight to catch.
 
There was a lot of good stuff after the game, but I need to save some stuff for a follow for Thursday’s newspaper with no access Wednesday.
 
Here is the playoff outlook:
 
7: Minnesota has 2 games left with 53 points. The maximum points it can get is 57. (vs. EDM, at COL).
8: Columbus has 2 games left with 51 points. Max points it can get is 55 (at DAL, vs. NSH) *Wild has the tiebreaker (most regulation/overtime/non-shootout wins) if Jackets win out and Wild wins one more.
9: Detroit has 3 games left with 50 points. The maximum points it can get is 56 (vs. LA, vs. NSH, at DAL)
10: Dallas, which lost painfully 3-2 to San Jose tonight, has 2 games left with 48 points. The max points it can get is 52 (vs. CBJ, vs. DET). The Stars can’t catch Minnesota.
11. Phoenix has 3 games left with 46 points. The max points it can get is 52 (vs. SJ, vs. COL, at ANA). The Coyotes can’t catch Minnesota.
 
Lastly, the Wild wore custom-designed camouflage jerseys during pre-game warm-ups tonight. These autographed camouflage jerseys will be available in an online auction starting Thursday via wild.com/camo. The auction will run through Sunday, May 12. Proceeds from the online auction will benefit the Minnesota Wild Foundation and Defending The Blue Line.
 

No practice Wednesday. Talk to you Thursday.

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