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 vs. Caps: Talking Harding/Backstrom, Clayton Stoner and cleaning up the Wild's game

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: November 7, 2013 - 11:35 AM

Wild faces Joel Ward and the Washington Capitals tonight at the house formerly known as MCI Center.

Wild's looking for its fourth in a row. Caps are looking for their fourth in a row. As they say in the biz, something's got to give!!!!

I'll be on Fox Sports North tonight during the pregame show at 5:30 p.m. CT and during the first intermission. We've got some good topics. Remember, if you're a radio listener and want to hear the sweet voices of Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid and the grating, obnoxious, annoying, insufferable voice of Kevin Falness (he's a really nice guy though), tonight's Wild game can be heard on 107.9-FM due to the 100.3-FM conflict with the Vikings game.

Josh Harding in the cage for Minnesota. Don't be surprised if Niklas Backstrom gets the call Saturday in Raleigh.

Obviously everything is subject to change and maybe Harding's performance tonight makes another no-brainer call for Miguelito Yeo.

But at some point Yeo wants and needs to get Backstrom back in the cage. One, again, Harding has multiple sclerosis and the Wild needs to make sure Harding is not run into the ground. He was lost for two months last year and has shown a propensity the past number of seasons of little and bigger injuries. Two, it would better serve the Wild if it can somehow get Backstrom into a rhythm as well.

"Hards has forced us to keep going here," Yeo said. "There’s no question that I do want to get Backy in there, especially that game that he played in Chicago, I thought he was outstanding in that game and would like to get him playing at that level consistency. We’re a better team if we have both guys going and we’re going to need both guys. At the same time, when you’ve got a hot guy, it’s hard not to ride him, too."

Nate Prosser is in for the injured Keith Ballard. My gut says Matt Dumba plays in Raleigh if it's true the 10th game means squat to the Wild. At some point, he's got to play. But again, if the defensemen are great tonight, Yeo may not want to fiddle with it.

Yeo was impressed with Clayton Stoner standing up to Calgary's Tim Jackman on Tuesday. Jackman crushed Jared Spurgeon and he was lost for all of the second period for it. Then after Zenon Konopka made it 4-1, Jackman slashed and cross-checked Jason Pominville.

Stoner, who had a tough game defensively, stepped up to Jackman, who did challenge Stoner to a fight earlier in the game.

"He didn’t hesitate," Yeo said. "That’s a team guy. That’s a guy that cares about his teammates. There's a lot of debate about fighting right now and whatnot, but bottom line, regardless of how you do it, you have to be there for each other.

"He brings something that we need in the lineup and that’s what forces us to put him in the lineup. We need him on the PK, and we need his physical presence."

Again, the Wild has won six of seven and is not particularly happy the way it has been playing lately.

Today's video session had to do with, STOP THROWING THE PUCK AWAY.

The turnovers lately have been glaring and plentiful.

"When you have success, there’s things that creep into your game, little things, things that you’re not aware of," Yeo said. "These are things that we want to rectify right now. Turnovers. We talk about puck possession. We're making plays. That’s good. But at the same time, we're hurting ourselves in a lot of ways. Make plays when they're there and when they're not there, don’t force it.

"Line changes, not good enough. It's not one player. Collectively, as a group, we have to be much better."

I've got a real fun lead note in tomorrow's paper, so please check that out. Some good stuff. I also talked to Jonas Brodin, who says there's times where his bubble is getting foggy and that has caused some turnovers. I noticed two icings the other day where his passes were way uncharacteristically off the mark. He says it's not a big problem and he's starting to get used to it. He says he'll have to wear the bubble for two or three more weeks.

If you want to ask a question for Sunday's Insider, see the below blog. Again, I can't take every question. I try to pick off about 10 or 12 that can fit in my allotted space.

Caps can you light you up. Wild must stay out of the box. There is no better power play teacher in the league than Caps coach Adam Oates. The once star playmaker had a great PP when he was an assistant in Tampa, when he was an assistant in New Jersey and as the head honcho in Washington.

Talk later and see you on the tube tonight.

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