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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

News and notes from Wild-Avs morning skates; A statistical look at Wild-Avs series

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: April 17, 2014 - 2:39 PM

UPDATED

Happy Game Day everybody! Wild and Avs tonight at 8:30 p.m. CT.

I will be hosting a live Wild-Avalanche/NHL chat on startribune.com today at 3 p.m. CT. Please join. I'll also be on Fox Sports North during tonight's pregame show and first intermission.

I'll also be on KFAN today, Friday and Monday at 4:30 p.m. CT.

John Mitchell is indeed out tonight for Colorado, as are Matt Duchene and Cory Sarich.

John Curry will back up Ilya Bryzgalov. Darcy Kuemper is getting closer to backing up, but with only two practices under his belt, coach Mike Yeo said the Wild's not comfortable yet putting him in uniform.

I had a great chat this morning with Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Colorado's now backup who may be leaning toward retirement after this season. He talked about his days with Bryzgalov, who was Giguere's backup in Anaheim, and also looked back to the 2003 Western Conference Finals. I'll write some of that in Friday's paper.

"You never have a boring day with Bryz around," Giguere said.

Avs coach Patrick Roy reminded us that Avs goalie coach Francois Allaire was also Bryzgalov's goalie coach in Anaheim, so "we have a lot of info on him."

Wild fans will probably get an appreciation in this series about just how good Nathan MacKinnon will be, is already and how lightning fast he is.

Obviously, the Wild will want Ryan Suter out against MacKinnon, but I think Yeo will also feel very comfortable with his two most mobile defensemen, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella, out there against him, too. I asked Yeo if the Wild may go with a coaching strategy of yesteryear and assign a player also to shadown MacKinnon (although the only one probably capable is speedy Erik Haula), but Yeo indicated it'll be a five-man unit thing.

"He’s a very dynamic player," Yeo said. "They have a number of them. We have to be careful that we’re not just keying on one guy, but this is a guy that you have to be incredibly impressed with his rookie season. His speed, the way he’s able to generate it so quickly – it doesn’t take much, there’s a loose puck and he’s jumping on it and his first couple strides are so explosive that you have to limit those opportunities. Once he does build that speed, then you have to make sure you’re containing it. We do feel good about the mobility of our defensive group. That’ll be a good challenge for them as far as them testing us with the one-on-one play."

MacKinnon was a playoff star in juniors, and he's ultra-confident. I'll write more about him later in the series. I gathered a lot of yarn on him today. I also chatted with Bloomington's Erik Johnson about his transformation into a No. 1 defenseman, and I'll write him later in the series.

On Semyon Varlamov, who won 41 games and will be a Vezina finalist, Yeo said, "We’ve done a scouting report. We’ve watched a lot of video. This is a great goalie. He’s very athletic, great side-to-side. The one thing I believe with any great goalie is the quicker you shoot the puck, the better off you are. He does a very good job of coming out and closing angles and making himself big in the net. The quicker you get the puck off your stick, the more net there is to shoot. We have to have a strong focus of making sure we’re putting a lot of traffic in front of him, making it difficult for him to come out and be aggressive on those shots."

Other little notes, Christian Folin returned to BU Massachusetts-Lowell (had a brain cramp, sorry) to finish some schooling and pack up his life. He'll be back next week for practice with a handful of Iowa players who should be coming up Tuesday just to practice.

If you missed today's coverage, I suggest picking up a newspaper, but here are some links:

--Today's MUST READ: Ilya Bryzgalov can be goofy, eccentric, standoffish. But he's a fascinating person and goalie. Here's a decent look into his personality as the Wild's playoff hopes ride on his shoulders.

--The Wild notebook. Patrick Roy says the Avs must check Ryan Suter every chance they get. Also, Mikael Granlund set to make his playoff debut tonight.

--The Avs notebook by freelancer Michael Kelly (@berge19). Hotshot rookie Nathan MacKinnon is set to make his playoff debut, and Jan Hejda is ready to play.

--Chip Scoggins' column on how the Wild's got a shot against Colorado.

--My scouting report into the Wild and its projected lineup

--My scouting report into the Avalanche and its projected lineup

Also, below is a deeper look at the Wild-Avs series with some cool stats and tidbits

WILD VS. AVALANCHE

The series, the players, the history

Season series: Avalanche won 4-0-1, outscoring the Wild 15-10.

All-time series: Wild 37-32-10. The Avalanche has outscored Minnesota 218-198. Since March 5, 2006, the Wild is 32-14-6 against Colorado and 13-3-3 in its past 19 in Denver.

All-time playoff meetings: 1-1. 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals, Wild won 4-3, outscored by Colorado 17-16; 2008 Western Conference quarterfinals, Avalanche won 4-2, outscoring Minnesota 17-12.

Wild leading scorers vs. Avalanche this season: Zach Parise 2 goals, 5 points in 5 games; Dany Heatley 1 goal, 4 points in 5 games; Jason Pominville 1 goal, 4 points in 5 games; Mikael Granlund 1 goal, 3 points in 2 games.

Avalanche leading scorers vs. Wild this season: Gabriel Landeskog 3 goals, 6 points in 5 games; John Mitchell 1 goal, 6 points in 5 games; Nathan MacKinnon 3 goals, 5 points in 5 games; Max Talbot 3 goals, 4 points in 5 games; Ryan O’Reilly 3 goals, 4 points in 5 games.

Wild goaltending vs. Avalanche this season: Josh Harding 1-1-1 with a 1.58 goals-against average.

Avalanche goaltending vs. Wild this season: Semyon Varlamov 3-0-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average.

Wild leading scorers all-time vs. Avalanche: Mikko Koivu 15 goals, 38 points in 49 games; Dany Heatley 8 goals, 29 points in 29 games; Kyle Brodziak 7 goals, 21 points in 42 games; Ryan Suter 1 goal, 20 points in 38 games.

Wild goaltending all-time vs. Avalanche: Ilya Bryzgalov 7-4-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average; Darcy Kuemper 0-0 with a 6.66 goals-against average.

Avalanche leading scorers all-time vs. Wild: Paul Stastny 10 goals, 29 points in 46 games; Matt Duchene 5 goals, 15 points in 26 games; Gabriel Landeskog 6 goals, 14 points in 15 games.

Avalanche all-time goaltending vs. Wild: Semyon Varlamov 7-4-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average; Jean-Sebastien Giguere 11-12-5 with a 2.34 goals-against average.

Wild all-time playoff leading scorers: Dany Heatley 15 goals, 57 points in 66 games; Zach Parise 22 goals, 44 points in 66 games; Matt Cooke 13 goals, 33 points in 97 games; Jason Pominville 12 goals, 28 points in 47 games; Ryan Suter 4 goals, 13 points in 44 games.

Wild all-time playoff goaltending: Ilya Bryzgalov 17-19 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .908 save percentage; Kuemper 0-0 with a 3.29 goals-against average and .879 save percentage.

Avalanche all-time playoff leading scorers: Max Talbot 18 goals, 39 points in 77 games; Paul Stastny three goals, eight points in 15 games.

Avalanche all-time playoff goaltending: Semyon Varlamov 10-9 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .915 save percentage; Jean-Sebastien Giguere 33-17 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Minnesota Wild

Records: 52-22-8; 43-27-12

Home: 26-11-4; 26-10-5

Away: 26-11-4; 17-17-7

Season-series: 4-0-1; 1-3-1

Goals For: 245 (2.99, 4th in NHL); 199 (2.43, 24th)

Goals Against: 216 (2.63, 14th); 198 (2.42, 7th)

Shots For: 29.5 (20th); 26.6 (29th)

Shots Against 32.7 (25th); 27.7 (5th)

Power play: 19.8 (5th); 17.9 (16th)

Penalty kill: 80.7 (24th); 78.8 (27th)

Leaders:

Goals: Colorado – Ryan O’Reilly 28, Gabriel Landeskog 26; Wild – Jason Pominville 30, Zach Parise 29

Assists: Colorado – *Matt Duchene 47, Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon 39; Wild – Mikko Koivu 43, Ryan Suter 35

Points: Duchene 70, Landeskog 65; Wild – Pominville 60, Parise 56

Power-play goals: Colorado – O’Reilly 9; Wild -- Parise 14

Time on ice: Colorado – Erik Johnson 23:00; Wild – Suter 29:24

Starting goalies:

Colorado: Semyon Varlamov – 41-14-6, 2.41 goals-against average, .927 save percentage, 2 shutouts

Wild: Ilya Bryzgalov – 7-1-3, 2.12 goals-against average, 911 save percentage, 3 shutouts

* Duchene has a sprained knee and may miss the start of the series; Mitchell is questionable with a concussion; Alex Tanguay, out for the series, isn’t included.

Mikael Granlund excited to make NHL playoff debut against Colorado

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 16, 2014 - 6:21 PM

Finally, Game 1 is right around the corner between the Wild and Colorado Avalanche.

“The season ends, the playoffs begin, and it’s just a new feeling when you come to the rink,” coach Mike Yeo said today after the Wild skated at Magness Arena on the University of Denver campus. “We all feel it. We’re excited it’s upon us.”

Good early evening from beautiful Denver, where the weather’s nicer than Minnesota.

A reminder, I plan to hold a live Wild-Avs/NHL chat on startribune.com/wild at 3 p.m. CT Thursday. Please join in. Your employers and teachers give you permission (actually, to be safe, you better confirm that).

Wild second-line center Mikael Granlund will return to the lineup Thursday night and make his NHL playoff debut. The former Finnish Elite League champ with HIFK said it’s going to feel amazing.

The rest of the lineup is identical to what the lines and D pairs were on yesterday’s blog. Darcy Kuemper practiced for a second consecutive day, but Yeo said the Wild won’t decide until Thursday if Kuemper or John Curry will back up Ilya Bryzgalov.

The scratches will be Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, suspended Mike Rupp and John Blum. Keith Ballard practiced for a second day in a row and he’ll miss the game with a groin injury. Josh Harding is said to be fine, but since he’s not ready to play, he didn’t travel.

For Colorado, banged-up defenseman Jan Hejda practiced today and is expected to play.

I wrote a big, interesting story on Bryzgalov in Thursday’s Star Tribune, so definitely give that a read. I’ll also be doing a notebook on minute-muncher Ryan Suter, whom Patrick Roy said will be targeted in the series for physicality. That’s not something unexpected and in fact Yeo said the Avs’ defensemen, especially their banged-up ones (Tyson Barrie and Hejda), should expect the same from the Wild.

More on that in the paper.

From our stringer Michael Kelly (@berge19 on Twitter), he attended Avalanche Executive VP Joe Sakic’s presser today, and he passed along some comments:

SAKIC
 

(experience a factor in playoffs?) It depends on what type of team you have and also expectations. This is a team that expects a lot from themselves. We have some guys who are going to learn on the fly when it comes to first-time playoff experience, but I'm a big believer that if you play the right way and don't cheat out there, then you can have success. You can get that experience while winning. That's the best way to get that experience. The way the teamhas reacted all year, expecting more and playing with that consistency, is going to do them well in the playoffs. 

(what does it take to win?) At the end of the day, it's a grind and the team that outlasts the rest of them is going to win. You're going to have adverse times in the playoffs. The biggest thing is stick to what you know, stick to your game plan, stay resilient, battle for one another. As long as you stay on that same path, whether it's going great or you had a terrible game the night before, you got to wake up the next morning and there's a new game coming up and it's probably a game that's more important than the previous game. Stay even keel and forgetting what happened the night before and just getting ready and focus on the next one.

(what does he expect in playoffs?) You don't know how different players will handle it, but this is going to be a great experience for them. You can gain that experience and win hockey games at the same time. We know we have a tough opponent in Minnesota. just like us, they played unbelievable hockey down the stretch and they're playing their best hockey at the right time as well. It's going to be a great series.  


Lastly,


MINNESOTA WILD TO HOST PRE-GAME PARTIES OUTSIDE GATE 2 OF
XCEL ENERGY CENTER PRIOR TO GAMES 3 AND 4
 
    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild will hold a pre-game party outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center prior to Games 3 and 4 on Monday, April 21, and Thursday, April 24.
 
    The pre-game party for Game 3 will begin at 4 p.m., with gametime at 6 p.m. For Game 4, the festitivies will run from 5-8 p.m., leading up to the 8:30 p.m. gametime. All fans at each game will receive a Wild playoff towel. In addition, 2003 Game 6 playoff hero Richard Park will be doing Let’s Play Hockey prior to Game 3, and Jim Dowd will do Let’s Play Hockey for Game 4.
 
Game 3 Pre-Game Party (4-5:30 p.m.)
Music from Five Man Advantage
Live broadcast from 100.3 FM KFAN’s Dan Barriero (3-6 p.m.)
Appearance by FOX Sports North Girls
Hockey Lodge booth (beginning at noon)
Photo Booth
Wild Plinko
Face Painters
$3 beer specials courtesy of Budweiser
Concessions
NHL Alumni autographs (Players TBD, 4:30-5:30 p.m.)
 
Game 4 Pre-Game Party (5-8 p.m.)
Live Music (DJ)
100.3 FM KFAN Live Broadcast (6:30-8 p.m.)
Appearance by FOX Sports North Girls
Hockey Lodge booth (beginning at noon)
Photo Booth
Wild Plinko
Face Painters
$3 beer specials courtesy of Budweiser
Concessions
NHL Alumni autographs (Players TBD, 6-7:30 p.m.)
 
 

Granlund, Brodziak expected to play in Game 1 of Wild-Avs series Thursday

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 15, 2014 - 5:18 PM

The Wild, which hops on a charter Wednesday morning aimed for Denver, held an up-tempo practice here at the X on Tuesday in preparation for Game 1 of its first-round series with the Avalanche on Thursday.

If you’re on Twitter (and all the cool people are), you can follow our stringer, Michael Kelly, at @berge19, throughout the first round for Avs practice and game updates in Denver. For real-time Wild news, follow me at @russostrib.

Wild center Mikael Granlund had another real good practice today, said he felt “real good” afterward and coach Mike Yeo wasn’t playing it coy afterward.

“Obviously we want to get him in the lineup,” Yeo said.

So barring a setback at Wednesday’s practice in Denver, Granlund will return to the lineup. Kyle Brodziak is also good to go for Thursday, while injured goalie Darcy Kuemper and defenseman Keith Ballard also practiced. Ballard won’t be ready by Thursday, and since this was Kuemper’s first practice with the big group, John Curry may back up Ilya Bryzgalov on Thursday. But we’ll see.

“We’re all hopeful that that’s never called upon,” Yeo said of using his backup, before letting out a laugh. “Crazier things have happened. We saw Game 1 last year (Niklas Backstrom getting hurt in warmups).”

Josh Harding practiced with the group before the main Wild group today.

So far, so good regarding unforeseen injuries. As I was reminded on Twitter, between Backstrom’s injury in warmups last year and Nick Schultz’s appendicitis right before Game 1 of the 2008 Avs series, the Wild should be ready for anything.

Wild lines in practice today:

FORWARD LINES

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Matt Moulson-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Nino Niederreiter
Stephane Veilleux-Erik Haula-Cody McCormick
 

DEFENSE PAIRINGS

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella-Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner-Nate Prosser
 

GOALTENDERS
Ilya Bryzgalov

Darcy Kuemper
John Curry

Extra forwards: Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, Jake Dowell, Mike Rupp (suspended)

Extra defensemen: Jon Blum, Keith Ballard.

Avs lines from their practice today in Denver:

FORWARD LINES

Ryan O’Reilly-Nathan MacKinnon-P.A. Parenteau 

Gabriel Landeskog-Paul Stastny-Jamie McGinn

Max Talbot-Marc-Andre Cliché-Cody McLeod

Patrick Bordeleau-Brad Malone-Paul Carey

DEFENSE PAIRS

Nick Holden-Erik Johnson

Tyson Barrie-Nate Guenin

Andre Benoit-Stefan Elliott

GOALIES

Semyon Varlamov

J-S Giguere

Reto Berra

Coach Patrick Roy (still weird to write that) said he expects Jan Hejda to play Game 1, so if so, he’d slide likely back onto the Johnson pair and Elliott would likely come out of the lineup. Holden would likely go to Barrie’s pair and Guenin to Benoit’s pair.

Coach Roy (still weird to write that) indicated Duchene won’t be ready to play early in the series and that third-line center John Mitchell (concussion) is feeling better and should return at some point in the series. Alex Tanguay is done for the year.

These are significant injuries for Colorado. For a change, the Wild pretty much enters the playoffs with all its pieces.

(So far, no rumors of another Peter Forsberg comeback and Joe Sakic is still wearing a suit).

By the way, five of the six defensemen for Colorado listed above will be making their playoff debuts (four if Hejda plays). Hejda and Benoit have combined for eight playoff games. Seven of Colorado’s 12 forwards listed above have never played a playoff game.

So, this is one area where the Wild may have the intangible edge.

“I think it’ll help a lot,” Suter said. “Whenever you do something, the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel, just like driving your car or riding a bike. The more you do it, the better you get at it.”

As you can see above, Heatley, who has more playoff points than any Wild player (57 in 66 games), enters as an anticipated scratch.

Also, I got the lines dead-on the other day. Fontaine enters as the 13th forward. Remember, if he doesn’t play three games in the playoffs, he can become an unrestricted free agent as opposed to a restricted free agent. But, most essential is Yeo goes with the lineup he feels he has the best chance to win with, and he’s clearly picked for now the 12 forwards.

That fourth line will be used to bring momentum, that third line will be used to not only shut down, but also to help dictate from the physicality department.

Stoner’s back in for the same reason. Blum has played well, but so far, Prosser stays in on that right side of the third pair.

OK, I better get writing for the paper. Lots of preview stuff will be in the paper the next few days, and obviously, please check out Tuesday’s paper. Also, coming Thursday, a real good look at Ilya Bryzgalov. I’ve gathered a lot of good yarn. Now I just need to write it well. So, with WISH me luck. (see what I mean)

Talk to you after practice Wednesday from Denver.

Lately,

MINNESOTA WILD TO HOLD SHAVEOFF, PRESENTED BY

BIC FLEX 4 SHAVER, THIS WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, TO KICK OFF

 BEARD-A-THON EFFORTS

    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – In celebration of the great tradition of the playoff beard, the Minnesota Wild is kicking off the Minnesota Wild Beard‑a‑Thon® to benefit the Minnesota Wild Foundation and build excitement for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. This Wednesday, April 16, celebrities and one lucky Wild fan will gather at Xcel Energy Center to clean off the stubble on some notable local faces and raise money for a great cause. Fans of Wild hockey and facial hair are invited to drop by for a free lunch, a chance to win playoff tickets and revel in the shaving merriment. Fans who make a donation of $10 or more will receive an official Minnesota Wild “Fear the Beard” t-shirt (quantities limited). The Shaveoff is presented by Bic Flex 4 Shaver.

    One lucky fan will also win an autographed Wild jersey and the chance to join the celebrities for a shave as part of the “Shaveoff Sweepstakes.” To enter, fans tweet a photo showing their Wild playoff spirit to @mnwild, using the hashtag #itsplayoffseason. The contest runs now through 4:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15. Official Rules are available at http://www.wild.com/shaveoff.

Minnesota Wild Beard-a-thon®

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Wednesday, April 16

Gate 1 – Xcel Energy Center

199 W. Kellogg Blvd. – Saint Paul, MN 55102

Celebrities participating:

-  Wes Walz, Minnesota Wild

-  Dave Schwartz, KARE 11

-  Chris Hawkey, KFAN 100.3

-  Paul Fletcher, Cities 97

Info:

- Donate $10 or more to receive an official Minnesota Wild “Fear the Beard” t-shirt (quantities limited)

- Free lunch (hot dog, chips, soda) for the first 250 fans

- Register-to-win tickets for the first Wild home playoff game

- Watch celebrities get clean shaven by the barbers from St. Paul’s legendary Heimie's Haberdashery

Links to today's Star Tribune Wild-Avs coverage AND a fun Russo-Dater Podcast

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: April 15, 2014 - 10:55 AM

UPDATED FROM PRACTICE:

FORWARD LINES

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Matt Moulson-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Nino Niederreiter
Stephane Veilleux-Erik Haula-Cody McCormick
 

DEFENSE PAIRINGS


Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella-Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner-Nate Prosser
 

GOALTENDERS
 

Ilya Bryzgalov

Darcy Kuemper
John Curry

Extra forwards: Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, Jake Dowell

Extra defensemen: Jon Blum, Keith Ballard.

Injuries: Kuemper (upper body), Ballard (groin) and G Josh Harding (MS) are day-to-day. LW Mike Rupp is suspended for Games 1-3. G Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) and LW Jason Zucker (quad) are out.

The Wild practices at 10:30 a.m. today, so I'll be back later with a fresher, newer blog. But, here's some morning/afternoon reading AND listening for you.

Today's Star Tribune coverage (click the links):

Wild finishes strong after desert summit conducted by leaders Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter

A year later (thanks to Dustin Brown), Jason Pominville gives Wild an added playoff weapon

Very funny notebook lead thanks to good sport/good guy Mark Parrish. Six years later, Parrish is on Wild payroll no more + more Mikael Granlund/Erik Haula talk and the Wild changing its travel schedule so it can practice in the high altitude of Denver tomorrow.

NHL playoff capsules, by Kent Youngblood

And, my predictions (scrutinize away because I may have tossed in a crazy upset or two). As for my Wild prediction, I can 100 percent see the Wild winning this series, but I had to go with my head and eyes at least in the prediction department. I think it'll be a long, intense series, but it just seems to be Semyon Varlamov's year and these Colorado forwards are as deep as any team in the NHL (especially if the Avs get Matt Duchene back at some point). BUT, at some point, somebody's got to get to these Colorado defensemen. They're young and inexperienced and are bound to crack, especially with Tyson Barrie and Jan Hejda banged up. But, nobody's made it happen yet. Maybe the Wild can if its players get pucks deep and go to work on the forecheck. The Avs will try to make this an end-to-end series, a rush-for-rush series, and if the Wild get lured into that, I promise you, it won't be on the winning end).

LASTLY, this was a fun thing to do, but last night I did a podcast with the Denver Post's Adrian Dater. Here is the link to his site, and then you hit a subsequent link I think to get to iTunes (it's free). We break down the series, but also talk about Twitter, our industry, accountability as beat writers and some cool behind-the-scenes stories throughout the years. It's an hour or so, but if you get time, it's probably worth a listen.

Follow Adrian throughout the series on Twitter at @adater.

A reminder, I'll be doing a live chat on startribune.com Thursday (GAME DAY!!!) at 3 p.m. CT from the Pepsi Center in Denver.


LOCAL BROADCAST SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED FOR MINNESOTA WILD’S FIRST-ROUND SERIES VERSUS COLORADO AVALANCHE
 
    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild, along with FOX Sports North and FM 100.3 KFAN, today announced the local broadcast schedule for the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Wild takes on the Colorado Avalanche.
 
    FOX Sports North will broadcast the first four games, including a full hour pre-game show, as well as a 30-minute post-game show. All four games will also be available on FOX Sports Wisconsin. The broadcast schedule for Games 5, 6 and 7 is still TBA.
 
    KFAN will broadcast Wild Fanline following each playoff game. There will also be live, 90-minute pre-game shows for Game 1 (Sak’s Sports Bar in Vadnais Heights), Game 2 (Jimmy’s Food and Drink in Vadnais Heights) and Game 4 (Wild pre-game party, outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center). Dan Barriero will be live from the Game 3 pre-game party from 3-6 p.m. Pre-game shows are to be determined for Games 5, 6 and 7. KFAN will also air a 30-minute “Wild Weekly” each Wednesday at 7 p.m. throughout the playoffs. Paul Allen will do his 9 to noon show in the Wild penalty box for Game 3.
 
    A limited number of single-game tickets remain for each of the three home games in the First Round, and can be purchased at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office and TicketMaster. The Wild will host a pre-game party outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center for both Game 3 and Game 4. The Game 3 party will begin at 4 p.m., while the Game 4 party will start at 5 p.m.
 
Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoffs Local Broadcast Schedule (all times central)
Game 1 – Thur., 4/17, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 2 – Sat., 4/19, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 3 – Mon., 4/21, Colorado at Minnesota, 6:00 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 4 – Thur., 4/24, Colorado at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 5 – Sat., 4/26, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 6 – Mon., 4/28, Colorado at Minnesota, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 7 – Wed., 4/30, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
 
 

Wild turns page on regular season and looks toward playoffs vs. Colorado

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: April 13, 2014 - 11:46 PM

I’m going to do my best to look ahead to the playoffs because that’s exactly what the Wild did during tonight’s 7-3 regular-season ending loss to the Nashville Predators.

I’ve been warning on here and on the radio the last few days that I expected tonight’s game would be like a glorified exhibition game and that’s exactly what it was. Wild players were in do-not-get-hurt mode. They dodged checks, dodged blocking shots, and from that standpoint, mission accomplished, coach Mike Yeo said, because the team got out of it healthy.

May sound like an excuse, but it’s reality. Yeo said the Wild will reset, start from scratch after a 6-1-1 end to the season and really begin prepping Tuesday in practice.

The one highlight was Jason Pominville having his second 3-point night in three games and becoming the third Wild player in history to hit the 30-goal mark. He also hit the 60-point mark. Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston scored at least 30 eight times with the Wild.

Rookie Erik Haula scored a goal and an assist for his first career multi-point game and had seven points in seven games since replacing Mikael Granlund as second-line center. The Wild has Monday off, and the expectation is Granlund will ramp it up with the rest of the team Tuesday and Wednesday and get into more battle drills as the Wild prepares for Game 1 of the playoffs Thursday in Denver.

If Granlund can play, Yeo made it clear that Granlund will reassume his No. 2 center spot.

“I think that Haulzy deserves an awful lot of credit for what he’s done, there’s no question,” Yeo said. “But when it comes to Granny, we’ll see how practice goes this week, but we are talking about a guy who led our team when Mikko [Koivu] went down playing against No. 1 D pairings and No. 1 centermen. You look at what he did in the Olympics playing against the best players in the world, … this is a pretty good player. So it’s great what Haulzy’s done, and we haven’t made any decisions yet, but we’re getting a pretty good player back if Granny’s able to come into our lineup.”

Said Haula: “[Granlund] deserves it. He’s had a great season. He’s played well with Pommer all year long. I jump in when he gets hurt. When he’s healthy he’s going to come back and take that spot on that line, I’m sure. I’m ok with that. Whatever the role, I’m ok with it.”

A reader brought up an idea on Twitter that somebody in the hockey industry mentioned to me in the press box tonight: It’s clear Yeo understandably wants to have a Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak shutdown line in the playoffs. Maybe an option is to put Haula on right wing at that line. This way he can take draws on his strong side instead of Brodziak at times and also it creates more of a scoring threat for that line and he would get more minutes than he would as fourth-line center. In addition, it seems like Cooke (by the way, he was in playoff form tonight getting under Shea Weber and Rich Clune’s skin) and Haula have had chemistry for a lot of the second half when they’re on the ice together, particularly shorthanded.

Then, you go with a fourth line of Cody McCormick centering Stephane Veilleux or Justin Fontaine and Nino Niederreiter. If there are times Yeo wants elevate Niederreiter’s role, he has got that option.

As for the Avs, Matt Duchene is still working his way back from a sprained MCL. Defenseman Jan Hejda injured his hand tonight and Tyson Barrie got hurt in San Jose. They’re day-to-day. Patrick Roy also announced tonight that John Mitchell has a concussion. That’s a big loss. He plays the Wild well and is their second-line center.

“This is a good team, a really good team,” Yeo said of the Avs. “Winning their division the way that they’ve gone from start to finish, this is a team that we have to have a lot of respect for. Skill level, very dynamic, very creative, so defensively it’s going to be a challenge for us. With that, they’re an in-your-face team and how we execute is going to be very important, too.”

The Wild can’t get into a run-and-gun game against them.

“We can’t play that type of style against them, there’s no question,” Yeo said. “It’s not one element. This is a very good hockey team and there’s not a lot of areas where you can look at them and say they’re really weak there. They’ve defended well this year, they’ve been very creative and skilled, especially with their forward group. And obviously they’ve had the goaltending, so we’re going to have to be ready to be sharp in all areas of our game.”

“I feel like against them, we have to keep the puck going forward,” said Zach Parise. “That’s where they struggle. When we didn’t do well against them, we tried to do a lot of cross-ice passes and they broke up a lot of plays in the neutral zone. When we did well against them in spurts, we just kept putting pucks behind them and making them turn. That’s when we got a lot of odd man rushes against them.”

I wrote an abbreviated advance on the series in Monday’s paper, so check that out on startribune.com/wild. Also, there’s the game story on Ilya Bryzgalov’s concerning game tonight. Yeo wasn’t concerned, saying, “You look at tonight, and we were brutal in front of him. It’s got to be a team effort. Bryz has done a fantastic job since he’s been here and his teammates have done a fantastic job in front of him to give him that opportunity. That’s the mentality we have to have. It’s got to be top to bottom because [the Avs] have too many weapons over there.”

That’s it for me.

Monday is off. I’ll be on KFAN in studio from 9-9:35 a.m., then I’ll start pounding the keyboard. Lots of playoff coverage coming up in the Star Tribune. I’ll also be on a Podcast tomorrow night at some point on the Denver Post’s site, I believe, with Avs beat writer Adrian Dater.

I’m planning a live online chat Thursday at 3 p.m. CT.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT