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 3, New York Rangers 2

Posted by: under Wild game coverage Updated: October 31, 2009 - 11:21 AM

Well, solid home win for the Wild, even though it was playing an injury-riddled Rangers team that's now lost five of six.

Marian Gaborik was in his customary street clothes for this one, and in the press box, which also helped a Minnesota team who will catch Pittsburgh on Saturday night without Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar.

But coach Todd Richards sounded like he was seriously considering giving Anton Khudobin his first NHL start tonight against Sid the Kid and the rest of the defending Stanley Cup champs. I'd still be surprised. Niklas Backstrom only had to face 20 shots tonight and the Wild doesn't play again until Thursday, but we will see.

Petr Sykora responded to his spanking with a goal and an assist, Mikko Koivu had two assists, Eric Belanger had a great goal off a beautiful Martin Havlat pass and Antti Miettinen scored the winning goal on his first goal of the season.

The Wild's now 4-1 at home and hopes to end its 0-8 road skid in Pitt.

The Wild played a strong 2 1/2 periods, and even though the Wild played smart hockey in the final 10 minutes and didn't do anything stupid by good, safe, get the puck out plays, the Wild also sat back in dramatic fashion after Marc Staal made it 3-2. Todd Richards thought the Wild "managed the game well," though.

Richards, who gives dramatic uneven ice times (look at the Chicago game sheet) as any coach I've ever covered (and I've covered a ton) evened up the ice times tonight. Even Derek Boogaard got a lot of third-period shifts, which rarely happened in the past during one-goal third periods. But Boogaard played a great game, had five hits and even two scoring chances. Still no goals though since Jan. 2006.

Havlat had his best game in a long, long time, and we'll see now if Richards lets Havlat, Belanger and Sykora continue to play together. At some point, one would think he'll give them four or five games to get used to each other so they can prove something to him. Then, if it doesn't work, maybe you change it. But the Mikko Koivu-Andrew Brunette-Antti Miettinen line's been very good.

Sykora's two-point game was his first since Jan. 28.

Koivu had two assists and leads the team with 12 points. Belanger is second with 11.

Havlat snapped a seven-game point drought with his helper.

Miettinen's goal was his first since March 25 (21 games).

Niklas Backstrom made 18 saves and is 12-1-4 in his last 17 at the X.

The Wild didn't trail tonight for the first time this season, had its second two-goal lead of the season and first at home, scored first for the fourth time this season and led after one period for the fourth time this season.

That is it. Rachel Blount's covering Saturday's game in Pittsburgh. Sunday is a planned day off for the team. I'll be back on the team Monday.

Don't forget: Read my Sunday column. It's a good one this week. Finally, right?

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