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 looks to rebound tonight in St. Louis

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 27, 2014 - 12:26 PM

Afternoon from St. Louis, where the Wild opens a four-game road trip tonight at the Blues. 

Coach Mike Yeo will be available before the game, but judging by the optional pregame skate, the staff has made the decision to throw Darcy Kuemper right back in there. It also looks like the same exact lineup as Justin Fontaine, Stephane Veilleux and Mike Rupp were bagged afterward.

Huge game to say the least. Dallas is idle again, meaning the the Wild will have played two more games than the Stars, who are six points back, after tonight. Stretching that lead would be huge. 

A Wild loss and a Phoenix win in Jersey would mean the Coyotes would be one point back heading into Saturday's pivotal game in Glendale. That's why last night's loss was so hurtful. 

Tonight's game could be a potential first-round matchup if the Wild makes the playoffs. Check out my game notebook on www.startribune.com/wild for quotes from Zach Parise on just how important tonight's game is to the mental makeup of the Wild, especially if it ends up the Wild plays the Blues in the playoffs. Remember, the Wild has lost eight in a row to St. Louis and hasn't won in regulation at St. Louis in the past 11 visits. 

Here is Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo this morning on tonight's clash, courtesy of my pals at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 

"We're familiar with each other over the last couple of years and now with the division the way it is. If you can set a tone early on, I think they're thinking the same thing, it's a potential first round matchup. This is where it starts. Both teams are playing for something a little bit extra. They're trying to keep that playoff spot and we're trying to move up in first place. If you can send a message playing the right way right now, it's going to be a good start going into the first or second round."

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