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 acquires Chris Stewart, Jordan Leopold; Scandella, Spurgeon updates

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate, Wild trade news Updated: March 2, 2015 - 3:51 PM

The Wild has made two moves prior to the deadline, and one came out of the blue because the price dropped dramatically.

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray, who had been trying to trade Chris Stewart all year long for a huge return, may have overreached at the end. The Wild was able to snag the power forward for a 2017 second-round pick. The Sabres are also picking up half the $465,000 still owed to the free-agent-to-be.

Stewart is a gamble because his commitment, fitness, defensive reliability and work ethic have long been questioned. But when he is engaged, he is an absolute menace (listed at 6-2, 231 pounds) who can score and this is clearly a move to help the Wild compete in the playoffs against more rugged Western Conference teams.

He scored 28 goals as a second-year winger for the Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10 and a combined 28 goals for Colorado and St. Louis in 2010-11, and it has been downhill ever since. This year, he has scored 11 goals and 25 points in 61 games and is minus-30, tied for second-worst in the NHL.

Thirty-two of his 126 career goals have come on the power play. It'll be interesting to see if he plays the No. 1 unit because Thomas Vanek has had a propensity for turnovers, especially the past two games, on that unit. Stewart has 253 points and 510 penalty minutes in 443 games.

Don't know yet who comes out of the lineup. We'll get GM Chuck Fletcher soon, but the fourth line is playing great (Justin Fontaine seems to make every line lately churn) and Jordan Schroeder has brought offense and speed and Sean Bergenheim has just been added to the lineup.

So it'll be interesting how coach Mike Yeo proceeds with a lineup that is playing well, has been fast, hard-working and structured. Also, at some point, Matt Cooke, Ryan Carter and Jason Zucker should return. That's the risk with this trade: The coach may have to mess with four lines that have been going really well, which is a little surprising after Fletcher talked Saturday about not wanting to mess with the chemistry.

TSN, funny enough, had Stewart ready to come on when the trade went down and broke the news to Stewart live on TV.

His reaction: "The Minnesota Wild? Sounds good. ... I'm excited I'll get a chance to play in the playoffs. I had a rough start of the year, and I thought the last 30 games I definitely turned my game around.

"They definitely have a lot of skill in their lineup, so me personally, I'd like to bring that power forward game, bring that grit and get in there, forecheck, create turnovers and just use my presence, go to the net, score some ugly goals."

The Wild also acquired Leopold for a fifth-round pick and Justin Falk, whom sources say asked to be traded.

Leopold was acquired from St. Louis for a 2016 fifth-round pick in November.

Leopold, 34, is most importantly a left-shot that could bring depth in case of injury. Good vision, moves the puck well, suspect at times defensively, good locker-room guy and again would be a depth player to have around for a playoff run.

He has scored 67 goals and 213 points in 677 games for seven teams (Calgary, Colorado, Florida, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, St. Louis and Columbus).

The former Hobey Baker winner won a national title with the Gophers in 2002, scoring 20 goals and 48 points in 44 games.

This letter is courtesy of KFAN's Paul Allen, who received this letter written by Leopold's 11-year-old daughter and read it on the air today.

The Wild also made a minor-league move, sending 2011 first-round pick Zack Phillips to Boston for 2010 second-round pick Jared Knight. Phillips flamed out bigtime and was a source of much frustration for the Wild because he had all the skill without the commitment off the ice.

FROM BEFORE THE TRADES:

Once in Calgary, Todd Richards pulled a phone out of his practice garb and pulled Eric Belanger off the ice for his trade to Washington. Coach Mike Yeo said he didn't bring his phone on the ice today.

Yeo on the trade deadline: "Boring for us. I went into this day understanding and knowing – obviously things could change, but first off we like the team, we like the way that we’re playing right now – a lot of the moves that we’ve done, we did them early. You look at Duby (Devan Dubnyk), it speaks for itself what a good deal that was for our team. You look at Sean [Bergenheim], the two games that we’ve seen him, we’ve been very pleased with what he’s brought. Also looks like a good fit."

On the possibility of trading for a depth defenseman, Yeo said, "[Fletcher] has our support on that. That’s not because of the play because of the guys that are in the lineup right now. We’ve been very pleased with that group (Nate Prosser, Matt Dumba and Christian Folin) and what they’ve been doing and the progress of our young kids. But that said, you have to prepare for injuries and make sure you’re protected that way. We would welcome anything like that."

Stephane Veilleux was assigned to AHL Iowa to create two roster spots.

Also, injured defenseman Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon didn't practice this morning. Everybody else did.

Yeo said there was good news with Scandella and there's nothing structural with this undisclosed injury and nothing to worry about. He said Scandella is feeling better and Yeo is "optimistic" he can play Tuesday against red-hot Ottawa.

Also, defenseman Jared Spurgeon will miss his sixth straight game with what's believed to be a concussion, but he skated this morning, is feeling better and the hope is he can return Thursday in Washington.

Also, the NHL will announce today the Colorado fines for Patrick Roy, Gabriel Landeskog and Cody McLeod.

The Landeskog and McLeod fines will seem insignificant, but remember, there is a maximum players can be fined under the collective bargaining agreement. A non-repeat offender with no hearing can be fined half of one day's pay not to exceed $5,000. So the fines are to bring attention to the rest of the NHL that the incidents were unacceptable and to establish a history with the players for future potential discipline wrongdoings.

Kyle Brodziak on McLeod jumping Mikael Granlund with three seconds left in a 3-1 defeat: "Clearly frustration or somebody told him to go do that because there's no point. What did Granny do? Just shows no class and lack of emotional control or whatever it is."

Koivu didn't bite talking about Landeskog, saying it is what it is and part of hockey and an emotional game.

Yeo on Dubnyk winning NHL First Star of the Month: "Very pleased for him that he could accomplish that. We’ve benefited from his solid play along the way. Very deserving of it. Anytime any player wins any kind of award and gets any kind of recognition like that, there’s a lot of people that helped him along the way. Certainly I think the team and the game they’ve played in front of him deserves a lot of credit for that. But there’s no doubt he’s very deserving and we’re all very happy for him."

Dubnyk also credited the team and was very honored.

I'll be back if there's a trade or after the deadline.

Devan Dubnyk named NHL's first star of the month

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: March 1, 2015 - 3:39 PM

For the first time in Wild history, one of its players has been named an NHL Player of the Month/(renamed) first star of the month.

Not shockingly, Devan Dubnyk, who made 33 saves in last night's win at Colorado, got the honor after going 11-2-1 in February with a 1.64 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and three shutouts while starting all 14 Wild games last month. The Wild climbed from 12th in the West to having a three-point cushion on the second wildcard spot. It is one point back of Winnipeg, which hosts the Kings today, for the first wildcard spot.

Dubnyk allowed 23 goals in 14 games (including two that arguably should have been disallowed in Calgary and Colorado), allowed two or fewer goals in 11 starts and shut out Chicago, Colorado and Edmonton.

Overall, Dubnyk is 24-8-3 (2.15 GAA, .926 SV%, 6 SO) in 39 appearances this season, establishing career highs in wins and shutouts while ranking in the top five in the NHL in shutouts (t-2nd), goals-against average (3rd) and save percentage (5th). The 28-year-old Regina, Sask., native has started all 20 games since his arrival in Minnesota Jan. 14, posting a 15-3-1 record with a 1.64 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and five shutouts in that span. He has allowed 32 goals in 20 games.

He is expected to start his franchise-record 21st consecutive game Tuesday against the red-hot Ottawa Senators. By the way, Monday is the first time since Feb. 11 that the Wild hasn't played every other day. It has played nine consecutive games without a back-to-back or two days between games.

The Wild's only other player of the month/star of the month honor was Josh Harding, the third star of the month in November 2013.

On another topic, I am being told that Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, captain Gabriel Landeskog and agitator Cody McLeod will all be fined for the antics with three seconds left last night.

Roy, for putting McLeod on the ice. McLeod, for jumping Mikael Granlund. Landeskog, for punching Mikko Koivu from bench to bench.

There will be no supplemental discipline for Sean Bergenheim, who checked Nathan MacKinnon and broke the youngster's nose when replays show his helmet hit MacKinnon in the face.

If the Wild put in a waiver claim for defensemen Tim Erixon or David Schlemko today, we won't know. Erixon was claimed by Toronto, Schlemko by Calgary -- two teams with higher waiver priority because they're lower in the standings.

Marco Scandella sustained what's believed to be a minor lower-body injury last night. Jared Spurgeon has missed five games with a concussion, although he started working out yesterday.

Prior to Scandella getting hurt, GM Chuck Fletcher said Saturday morning that he would "maybe" look to acquire a defenseman by Monday's 2 p.m. deadline.

But, he said, "[Jon] Blum’s played real well in Iowa lately. Justin Falk’s a guy that played against Chicago a couple years ago in the playoffs. Both those guys have playoff experience, and we’re expecting to get Spurgeon back here at some point. I mean, you never know. If you have a rash of injuries, you always want to make sure you have enough depth. But I do think when you look at Blum and Falk and [Stu] Bickel, those are three guys that have played in the league. So, not many teams have that kind of depth down on their farm club. Again, we’ll look around, but we’re not going to add a body for the sake of adding a body. If we can get somebody that fits, then we’ll look at that."

I wrote a trade deadline advance for Monday's paper where you can read more from Fletcher, coach Mike Yeo and Zach Parise.

Talk to you tomorrow barring news today. Make sure you follow me on Twitter on Monday at www.twitter.com/russostrib. 

I will be on Fox 9 tonight at 10:35 with Dawn Mitchell.

Avalanche loses to the Wild yet again, goes out swinging

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: March 1, 2015 - 2:41 AM

Mayhem in Denver as the Wild defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 to gain a three-point cushion on eighth and move a point from Winnipeg.

In a nasty, physical, action-packed, playoff-like affair, the Avalanche tried to run the Wild out of the building.

“I’d probably be frustrated too if we played a team and hadn’t scored on them in four games except on a dump-in,” Zach Parise said, grinning (you’ll understand what he’s referring to in a few paragraphs). “They’re taking their frustration out on us. We played a good game in spite of what they were trying to do.”

Twelve periods and 240 minutes of hockey now this season, and the only goal the Avalanche has scored against the Wild in four losses (outscored 12-1) arguably should have been wiped out by referees Chris Rooney and Dean Morton tonight.

Just 1:32 into the second period, a Maxime Talbot dump-in ricocheted awkwardly off the glass, into the crease and pinned under Devan Dubnyk’s right pad. Cody McLeod came charging in trying to jam at the puck and pushed Dubnyk over the goal line.

The ref blew the play down signaling no goal. But they went to review, and the NHL Situation Room correctly determined the puck lodged under Dubnyk’s pad when it went over the line. Tying goal.

However, Dubnyk’s pad only went over the line because McLeod pushed him over the line. Before it got to video review, Rooney and Morton probably should have disallowed the goal. That part of this was not reviewable.

“The ruling, I guess, was that McLeod had nothing to do with me going into the net, which is somewhat mindboggling,” Dubnyk said. “It didn’t seem to matter in the end. For us to respond like that after a goal that probably shouldn’t have counted, that’s a sign of a great hockey team.”

Erik Haula set up Justin Fontaine to make it 2-1 later in the second and Jason Pominville snapped a seven-game point drought in the third.

I paint the above picture though because fast forward to three seconds left with the Avs trailing 3-1. Coach Mike Yeo threw his players on the ice and Patrick Roy countered with five skaters, including Cody McLeod, who was running around all game long, getting into skirmishes by the bench, trash-talking constantly.

Basically, he was doing was Cody McLeod does.

The puck’s dropped and McLeod, from the left wing, skates right at center Mikael Granlund and drives him to the ice, then goes right after Charlie Coyle and gets into a fight.

 

“I should have saw it coming,” Coyle said. “He backed up and went right after Granlund. Just a stupid play on his part.”

This is textbook instigating, and in the last five minutes, warrants a one-game suspension and $10,000 fine for Roy if upheld by the NHL’s hockey ops department IF the refs call it instigating.

So what do you think Rooney and Morton determined after McLeod jumped a skilled player and started a fight and nearly triggered a brawl by the benches, one that including Gabriel Landeskog taking a swipe at Mikko Koivu from bench to bench?

That McLeod would indeed get a 2-5-10, but the two would be unsportsmanlike conduct, not instigating.

“I didn’t know what was called, but it’s got to be [an instigator],” Coyle said. “That guy’s out there with how many seconds left? Have to know that’s coming.”

There are rules in place to prevent what McLeod did, but you need the refs to actually call it.

“That’s garbage is what it is,” Yeo said of McLeod’s antics. “You feel it was going that way all game long. They were obviously very emotional all game long. In an emotional type of game, we did a good job of keeping our focus and I really think that was the difference in the end.”

Asked what he thought of Roy putting out McLeod, Yeo said, “We’ve seen the league respond to things like this. There’s rules in place to try to prevent things like that and I’m quite certain that they’ll take a good long look at that.”

We’ll see if the league does examine this and determines the only thing that kept this from being an instigator with less than five minutes left is that the refs decided not levy one for some unexplained reason.

(Note: I did not get to question Roy after the game because of a tight deadline due to 9 p.m. game and the fact his availability was during the Wild’s availability).

But the tone was set early in the game when the refs let a lot of stuff go, especially on Thomas Vanek and Coule. In the third, Nathan MacKinnon broke his nose on a check from Sean Bergenheim. The Avs accused Bergenheim of a head shot, but a screenshot I tweeted appears to show MacKinnon being nailed by his own stick.

Nate Prosser said, “We weren’t into the [stuff] after the whistles. We just wanted to stay levelheaded and get the win. They’re coming late. But we just wanted to make sure we were focused on getting the win before getting any extracurricular stuff.”

Added Erik Haula, who for the second game in a row scored a goal and assist, said, “We kept it cool and played the game the right way.”

Added Yeo, “We’ve proven, they’ve tried to do that against us in the past too and I think we respond pretty well to that. I think in some ways it gets some guys even a little bit more into the game. We’ve dealt with that before. I’m pretty impressed with the guys and have confidence they’ll have no problem dealing with that again.”

The Avs close the season series in Minnesota next Sunday. Maybe Stu Bickel will be in the lineup that day and we’ll see if McLeod would fight him instead of going after guys like Granlund.

In the meantime, as Yeo said, “Once the dust settles, we’ll be able to sit back and realize that was a really big win for us. ... In an emotional game, we did a good job keeping our focus and I really think that was the difference in the end."

The Wild beat Colorado for the eighth time in the past nine games including the playoffs and improved to 15-3-3 in its past 21 regular-season games in Denver.

The Wild killed seven penalties, including two abbreviated 4-on-3’s, a 5-on-3 and a 6-on-4. The Wild’s penalty kill is now 43 for 44 during the Wild’s 13-2-1 streak since the All-Star break.

“The penalty kill was huge,” Yeo said. “I feel bad for Duby. I thought Duby was great right from the start of the game and it’s a shame. I didn’t feel that their goal should have counted. I felt that he was clearly pushed into the net. It would have been nice for him to get the shutout. Overall I thought he played a real strong game, obviously backstopping the penalty kill, but those guys were huge, especially in that second period.”

Dubnyk made 33 saves and is an NHL-best 15-3-1 since Jan. 15 with a 1.64 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and five shutouts.

He has got to be one of the frontrunners for February First Star of the Month. He was 11-2-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and three shutouts.

Wild fans packed the Pepsi Center tonight and “DOOOOOOOOOO”ed after all his saves. He was impressed.

“When we were scoring goals, the place was erupting. It’d pretty cool to have that kind of support,” he said.

In the meantime, two big road wins at Nashville and Colorado, said Parise. “It’s something for us to feel really good about.”

The Wild has won seven of its past nine on the road.

Haula and Justin Fontaine scored goals and Kyle Brodziak had a long empty-netter wiped out. But that line was again terrific and Haula said the confidence with the three keeps growing. Jason Pominville also snapped a seven-game point drought with a big third-period goal.

Marco Scandella did seem to get injured. I thought it was from Matt Dumba’s stick because that was his final shift, but before that, he looked like he may have hurt himself when Matt Duchene cut to the net. Yeo said afterward there was too much discomfort for him to continue, to the Wild, already without Jared Spurgeon, played with five defensemen for half the game.

“We keep coming together as a group,” Prosser said. “Big loss of Scandy, we need him and Spurge, but us five took the bulls by the horns and picked up the slack and it was a big two points for us.”

The trade deadline is Monday at 2 p.m. The Wild already wanted a defenseman. We’ll see, depending on his severity, if this further forces the Wild’s hand and it gets one. Also, Tim Erixon and Dave Schlemko can be nabbed off waivers Sunday if the Wild valued them.

Yeo did say this morning that Spurgeon started to work out today.

Intense game to say the least. There was even a nasty fight in the stands between I believe a female Wild fan and male Avs fan.

That’s it for me. The Wild isn’t practicing Sunday. I’ll hop on here and blog if there’s any news, whether from a player acquisition standpoint or if the league chooses to hand out discipline from this game.

I’ll be on Fox 9 with Dawn Mitchell at 10:35 p.m. Sunday.

With three straight shutouts over Colorado, the Wild looks to keep rolling in the Mile High City

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild pregame skate Updated: February 28, 2015 - 5:15 PM

UPDATED

For as long as I've covered hockey, in back-to-back situations, when a team is on the road and the next night's opponent is already waiting in your city, the coach always reminds the media of that fact preemptively after the front-end road portion of the schedule.

Tonight, the Wild is that quintessential, "They've been back in Denver waiting for us" team.

Last night, the Colorado Avalanche played in Dallas. The Wild has been sitting in Denver since arriving in the wee hours of Friday morning after its convincing 4-2 win at Nashville.

So the Wild, which didn't practice Friday, should have plenty of energy tonight against the Avalanche, which rallied to beat the Stars in an entertaining game and shootout last night. 9 p.m. CT start time. I'll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show.

Devan Dubnyk will make his 20th consecutive start tonight for the Wild, tying Niklas Backstrom's 2009 team record. He is 14-3-1 with the Wild with a 1.68 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and five shutouts.

In today's paper, I did a story on what Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom have been up to. Here's a link.

The Wild has shut out the Avs in three consecutive meetings this season by a combined 9-0 score (outshot them 111-64). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Minnesota is trying to become the first NHL team to post four straight shutouts vs. one opponent in the same season since 1928, when the Pittsburgh Pirates earned four straight shutouts vs. Boston (12/1/27-1/28/28).

The Wild, 12-2-1 since the All-Star break and NHL-best 14-3-2 in its past 19 games, has won six of eight on the road to climb over .500 on the road (15-14-2) for the first time since being 1-0 with a 3-0 win at Colorado on Oct. 11.

It is 14-3-3 in its past 19 regular-season games in Denver.

In the past eight overall regular-season games between the Wild and Avs, the Wild is 7-1, outscored them 25-11 and have a shot differential of plus-101.

Coach Mike Yeo though is expected the Avs' best after being shut out three times by the Wild. Also, Nathan MacKinnon was benched for parts of last night's game in Dallas, so expected a jacked-up No. 1 overall pick.

The season series ends in Minnesota on March 8 with a 5 p.m. game.

Other tidbits: The Wild has outscored opponents 24-8 in the 19 first periods since Dubnyk’s arrival. The Wild is 26-6-3 when it scores first and has scored first in 12 of 15 games since the All-Star break. … The Wild has killed 36 of 37 opposing power plays since the All-Star break. That's an NHL best 97.3 percent. To put that in perspective, in the 13 games before this stretch, the Wild's PK was 72.2 percent (27th in the NHL over that span).

Stephane Veilleux cleared waivers this morning. He's staying on the roster at least as of right now. If the Wild needs his roster spot because of a trade, it can assign him to Iowa now.

A flood of players were placed on waivers today and will be tomorrow (last day before Monday's 2 p.m. deadline) as teams try to create similar flexibility as the Wild.

The Wild's looking for a left-shot D. As I reported today, Jordan Leopold is one name it's looking at. Not sure how the Wild brass values him, but Tim Erixon was placed on waivers by the Hawks today as they prepare to make a trade. Left-shot D drafted in the first round by Calgary that has bounced around to the Rangers, Columbus and Chicago, so his stock has dropped. But he has NHL experience and wouldn't cost an asset other than the waiver claim money.

By the way, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr attended Friday’s University of Denver-Miami University game to watch the RedHawks’ Louis Belpedio, a freshman drafted by Minnesota in the third round last June.

Wild places Stephane Veilleux on waivers, creates roster flexibility for potential trade

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild news, Wild trade news Updated: February 27, 2015 - 3:25 PM

Wild left wing Stephane Veilleux was placed on waivers today. With one roster spot open already, Veilleux would create a potential second roster spot if needed. Basically, the move gives the Wild the flexibility if it wants to make a trade in the next day or so (see below for one name the Wild has inquired about).

The trade deadline is Monday at 2 p.m. CT.

If Veilleux clears waivers, he won't necessarily be assigned to AHL Iowa. In fact, with no extra forwards or defensemen, he'll probably stay on the roster unless the Wild needs that spot prior to Saturday's game against the Colorado Avalanche.

By having Veilleux clear waivers, this again just allows the Wild that ability to send him to the minors IF it needs his roster spot because of a trade.

As I reported last week in this article (and frankly several articles recently), General Manager Chuck Fletcher is in the market for a depth defenseman.

In recent games, the Wild has had injury scares with defensemen Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. Jared Spurgeon is already on injured reserve with a concussion, although coach Mike Yeo has said he is doing better. But all this was a reminder to Fletcher that even with Matt Dumba, fellow rookie Christian Folin and Nate Prosser playing well, it may behoove him to acquire a depth defenseman who can jump into the lineup if needed. There is little doubt the Wild needs another NHL body or two on the blue line, not just in case of injury, but performance. For instance, Dumba had a couple bigtime rookie moments the Wild did survive last night.

In Iowa, the only defensemen considered callup options remaining are Justin Falk and Jon Blum. Falk is the Wild’s only left-shot defenseman beyond Ryan Suter, Brodin and Scandella, meaning the Wild's one left-side injury away from having to recall Falk.

The Wild has inquired with the Columbus Blue Jackets about former University of Minnesota defenseman Jordan Leopold, sources say. The price is believed to be a mid-range draft pick. He was acquired from St. Louis for a 2016 fifth-round pick in November.

Leopold, 34, is most importantly a left-shot that could bring depth in case of injury. Good vision, moves the puck well, suspect at times defensively, good locker-room guy and again would be a depth player to have around for a playoff run.

He has scored 67 goals and 213 points in 677 games for seven teams (Calgary, Colorado, Florida, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, St. Louis and Columbus).

The former Hobey Baker winner won a national title with the Gophers in 2002, scoring 20 goals and 48 points in 44 games.

The top two defensemen on the open market are considered Edmonton's Jeff Petry and former Wild Zbynek Michalek, but Michalek has a concussion and Petry is a right-shot.

Other defensemen potentially available include Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen (coming back from blood clot and hasn't played all years), Carolina's Tim Gleason, Buffalo's Andrej Meszaros and Colorado's Jan Hejda. Others, too, but those are the most well-known names and Leopold is the only one I know the Wild has inquired about.

Again, for the Wild to give itself the flexibility to technially acquire two bodies, perhaps some other stuff is cooking, too. Remember, after Monday's deadline, rosters expand so injured players will be able to come back at any time without the need to create roster spots.

The Wild plays the Avs tomorrow night. The Avs are in Dallas tonight.

The Wild has shut out the Avalanche in three consecutive meetings (combined 9-0), the first NHL team to accomplish that feat since 2007-08. The Wild, 12-2-1 since the All-Star break and 14-3-2 in its past 19 games, has won six of eight on the road to climb over .500 on the road (15-14-2) for the first time since being 1-0 with a 3-0 win at Colorado on Oct. 11.

It is 14-3-3 in its past 19 games in Denver.

Devan Dubnyk is expected to start his 20th consecutive game, tying Niklas Backstrom's team record set in 2009. If all goes well, he has to be a candidate for February's First Star of the Month. The Wild has never had a Player of the Month.

By the way, Nino Niederreiter is the first Swiss-born player in NHL history to hit the 20-goal plateau.

That's it for now, although whether it's today, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, I'd expect the Wild to make a move for at least a defenseman.

I'll be on KFAN today at 4:30 p.m. CT, Saturday at 11:35 a.m. CT and Saturday night on Fox Sports North during the pregame show.

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