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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Havlat may play; Boogey guarantees goal; Backstrom's equipment still work in progress

Posted by: Michael Russo under Brad Childress, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Wild pregame skate Updated: December 23, 2009 - 11:12 AM

Good morning from high above the X, where Petr Sykora is running the Iditarod thanks to the whipping of assistant coach Dave Barr. Sykora is literally on the ice as I type gasping for air. Get that man a bowl of water.

Sykora is working hard for his return from a concussion. Sad thing is his progress might be stalled because NHL teams can't practice Thursday and Friday. Saturday there will only be a morning skate. Sunday there will be an abbreviated practice before the team flies to So. Cal for back-to-back games, next Wednesday is a planned day off, next Thursday (New Year's Eve) is a game day, then one practice on New Year's Day and a game Jan. 2 and then finally two practices in a row before a game in Chicago on Jan. 5.

My totally unscientific math. Earliest Sykora plays is Jan. 5. But coach Todd Richards seemed to agree with my math.

First, check out the poll on the Star Tribune home page and throughout the site asking you what's the biggest Minnesota sports story of the decade. I encourage you to vote. 

Martin Havlat skated this morning and looked good in the locker room. But as we know with this flu, that means squat. The Wild will wait to see how he is when he returns to the rink tonight to decide if he can play.

If he can't Guillaume Latendresse will replace him. If Havlat can play, the Wild will have to make a forward decision. I'd suspect James Sheppard will draw the short straw behind centers Mikko Koivu-Eric Belanger-Kyle Brodziak-Andrew Ebbett.

Derek Boogaard is in, unless Richards notices Brad Watson's officiating. The zebra didn't take his pupils off Boogaard two weekends ago in Vancouver.

Boogaard got lots of reminders from inside the locker room today about my blog yesterday. Boogaard knows Cal Clutterbuck's honor is on the line, and he guaranteed tonight's the night his goal drought ends.

"What will be the decibel level in here tonight if Boogaard gets a trick?" Clutterbuck wondered. I'm assuming he meant Gordie Howe [hat] trick, not a real-life three-goal trick.

By the way, some players were jokingly asked Niklas Backstrom today, "Hey when did we trade for Giguere?"

This was a crack at how huge his chest protector looks.

Backstrom's been the most affected by this equipment fire. In Ottawa, he had to use his old, beaten up, retired chest protector. Against Colorado, he wore Josh Harding's. Tonight, he's wearing brand-new ones.

Asked how they feel, Backstrom laughed and said, "Feels big."

In fact, after the second period against Colorado, Richards said he considered pulling Backstrom and inserting Harding, but he didn't want to do that to Harding since Backstrom was wearing his gear and Harding was wearing new gear.

Sounds an awful lot like the Brad Childress-Brett Favre controversy. I pointed that out to Richards, and he didn't seem too enamored with my joke.

OK, must work.

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