This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael 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.
As you can imagine, tomorrow's Star Tribune is all about the Wild. Above the fold, below the fold, centerpiece, even A1.
So make sure you buy a copy, plus there may be some Vikings news in the middle of the sports section.
Maybe the longest practice of the Wild season this morning down at the X as players put in a "good work day," as Matt Cullen said, in an effort to fix what's been ailing the team lately, and really all season. The team goes into 20-minute lulls, and they're trying to figure out the reasons why. More on that in the paper.
In honor of the team I cover, and to be fair SBN's Bryan Reynolds gave me the idea on Twitter, I watched the beginning and end of practice and went for a 20-minute coffee break in the middle. And as Jess Myers joked on Twitter, there will be a blank three graphs right in the middle of my story in Tuesday's paper.
Oh, Twitter. Such comedy.
As for news, center John Madden and defenseman Marek Zidlicky missed practice with what coach Todd Richards called sore legs. Richards believes both should be able to practice Tuesday. Cal Clutterbuck is playing through a debilitating injury. No need to identify the issue, but he got hit right on the spot today and took a long time to get up off the ice. But he said he'll be OK and is able to play through the injury.
Guillaume Latendresse continues to be out of sight, out of mind. Chuck Kobasew didn't practice and is still a ways off.
Richards indicated that defenseman Clayton Stoner will play Wednesday against the big, bad Philadelphia Flyers. He also said with three games in four days starting Friday, two on the road and commercial travel potentially a problem during the holidays, the team will probably call up an extra defenseman at least before it hits the road for Denver.
He did indicate that the team was kicking around maybe bringing up another forward Tuesday. There are two forwards on waivers, too, as some fans have pointed out to me on Twitter and email today.
--Anaheim put White Bear Lake's Ryan Carter on waivers (and he's local, so the Wild owes it to Minnesotans everywhere to take a look).
--And Carolina put former Wild second-round pick Patrick O'Sullivan on waivers.
I doubt the Wild has interest in Carter because it didn't have interest in him when he was on waivers this past summer, but maybe O'Sullivan.
I'm not an O'Sullivan proponent, as you probably know by now. There's a reason why he's bounced around the league like a car on an icy I-94, but he is skilled and Pierre-Marc Bouchard continues to be the most heavily practiced injured player in the history of the NHL.
And since O'Sullivan is on a two-way deal, there'd be flexibility for any team to take him and then expose him to waivers again later in an effort to get him to the minors. So, what I'm saying, O'Sullivan could be good temporary help for any team that needs offense.
By the way, even if the Wild has interest in O'Sullivan, there's no guarantee he'd get to them if they put in a claim. Waiver rules go from last to first in terms of claim, so a number of other teams have first dibs.
Today was actually a fun day to be around the rink. I informed the football lovers that Brad Childress was fired while they practiced. I've given a lot of players a lot of news this week, strangely enough -- some sad (Pat Burns), some not.
As you can imagine and many of you probably experienced (I know I did), hearing some of the anecdotes as to what it was like for the players and coaches to drive home after the game Saturday due to the ice storm was pretty humorous. And these are guys who grew up in winter climates, so I felt a little better about how uncomfortable I was driving.
The staches are coming in well for the players as Movember comes close to an end. Remember, Friday is the team's effort at a Guiness World Record with their stached fans, so I'll rehash those details on that in Thursday's paper and blog. Mikko Koivu and Nick Schultz's staches turned blonde to brown overnight mysteriously enough.
Nik Backstrom joked that he thinks Derek Boogaard should get fined for skating over the red line to say hi to him the other night during warmups. Backstrom said he didn't hear from Boogaard said, but, "He was there. I felt it."
After practice, some players signed autographed pucks until their hands fell off. Others were taking part in a food drive.
OK, that's it from here. Kent Youngblood is covering practice Tuesday. Maybe there'll be some news.
Youngblood here. Wild coach Todd Richards, assistant coach Dave Barr and video coordinator PJ DeLuca finally did something Richards has wanted to do since being named head coach: attend a Vikings practice.
It wasn't just about being a fan. Richards said he is, and that part of it was fun. But it was more about observing how Vikings coach Brad Childress and his staff approach preparation for a game.
"We thought about doing this last year, but we didn't have a lot of time," Richards said. "This year we had some time to get down here to see exactly what the Vikings staff does to prepare for the day. It was very gracious of the coaches, Brad and his staff, to allow us in."
That included getting to Winter Park early to sit in on some meetings. Then Richards, Barr and DeLuca went out into the hot mid-day sun to watch the Vikings go through a relatively brief practice.
"We watched how they prepare, how they do things," Richards said. "We had a chance to witness some other things, too. It was a chance to see how things are done in a different sport."
And while the sports are obviously very different, there are some things Richards said he was able to take away from the experience. For example, how coaches relate to their players. Or how organized things have to be to get all the stuff done that needs to get done as an offense, defense and special teams prepares for a game.
"There are things that you can take from it," Richards said. "How you go about your day, trying to get your players to play a certain way, communication with the players. I was very impressed with the organization the coaches have. I was impressed by the meetings, the efficiency with which they went about their day."
For Richards, it was time well spent. "I truly enjoyed it," he said. "From a coaching standpoint and from a fan standpoint. It was great."
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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