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.
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Josh Harding suffered a left leg injury in the first period of tonight's Wild-Chicago game and has been replaced at the start of the second by Darcy Kuemper.
Harding, playing because of an injury to Niklas Backstrom before Game 1, was run into by Hawks captain Jonathan Toews in the first period.
Harding had six saves in the first period and gave up a goal to Patrick Sharp.
Quick update from the X, where the Wild is getting ready to play host to Chicago in Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Jason Pominville skated in the pregame warmups, and on the line rushes he was on a fourth line with Torrey Mitchell at center. Stephane Veilleux was the other winger.
He will return for the first time since April 23 and start on that line. The goal is also for Pominville to aid a power play that is 0 for 9.
Jake Dowell would have slotted into that fourth line if Pominville couldn't go.
Pominville, out because of an upper body injury, probably a concussion, missed the final two games of the regular season and the first three games of this series.
Jason Pominville participated in the Wild's morning skate today, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will return tonight for Game 4.
Pominville has practiced twice since April 23 -- and one was an optional. At least in the morning skate, he was not on a line for rushes, although Pominville did work his way through battle drills late with Nate Prosser.
We'll have to see during warmups if he participates. It's the playoffs, so everything is in a shroud of secrecy.
If Pominville knows if he is playing or not, he wasn't divulging. Neither was Mike Yeo, only saying his appearance in the morning skate was "another good step. Good to see he had another good day, and we'll see."
"I'm just doing my best trying to get proper treatment done and doing my best to get back to where I need to be," Pominville said. "That decision will be up to the coach, but I'm heading in the right direction, that's for sure."
Pominville wouldn't say the injury. We assume concussion, but this is still conjecture. He said he would reserve comment on that until the season is over.
"It's been tough not being on the ice in the best time of year. It is not easy," he said. "It's been a tough rehab. A few things have gone different ways."
We hadn't talked to Pominville since the dirty April 23 elbow from Dustin Brown. Pominville hasn't played since. Brown got a two-day vacation in games he probably didn't want to play anyway.
"Obviously not happy about the hit, but at the same time I know that he's a guy that plays hard and hits hard," Pominville said. "I just don't think the elbows are needed when you try to hit a guy. It's unfortunate that it happened."
Pominville, whose wife and kids have been in town for a month, has been skating on the side with Dany Heatley, who has been shooting some pucks and skating for conditioning. I talked to Heatley and it's clear there's no chance he could return at least this series.
Mike Rupp also skated, but like Pominville, he wasn't on a line rush. Injured Zenon Konopka and Clayton Stoner weren't on the ice. Neither was Mikael Granlund, Carson McMillan or Matt Dumba, meaning they will join the several Houston players recalled that just checked into a local hotel. I will provide a list later.
Jake Dowell, a former Blackhawk who played two postseason games for them, looks like he will play if Pominville and Rupp don't.
The first three lines remained the same this morning, but Dowell was centering Stephane Veilleux and Torrey Mitchell.
If Pominville appears tonight, he would likely skate with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. My guess -- and total guess -- would be that Veilleux would play the left side of Mitchell and Cal Clutterbuck.
The other option is to keep the third line intact and play Pominville on the fourth line with Mitchell and Veilleux or Mitchell and Dowell. Or maybe Rupp plays.
Confused? I am. Let's wait and see.
Dowell said he didn't know for sure if he was playing, that it was just a matter of being ready if Pominville doesn't play. He would love to play, obviously, saying, "It'll be a gametime decision. This would be awesome. This stage that this game is, I'm champing at the bit to get in and want to do whatever I can to be effective. I'm ready if called on. If not, I'll just have to stay ready."
He skated with Veilleux in Houston: "You just let him go and try to feed off his energy."
Josh Harding starts. I am hearing Darcy Kuemper is backing up, although Niklas Backstrom is getting closer.
Ryan Suter was very honored by being named a Norris Trophy finalist.
"It's a huge honor for me," Suter said. "I feel very fortunate to be on that list. It says a lot about our team and the guys that I've played with."
He added, "Our team, we had a good year. Without all my teammates, I'm not going to be on that list. Playing with Jonas [Brodin], he's a good, young player. It's kind of a shame he didn't get nominated for the Calder. But I don't look at it personally. I couldn't have done it without a great team and great goaltending and the whole package."
Dowell, his good buddy from Wisconsin (college roommates, in each other's weddings), said, "He is as humble as a guy as there is. He thrives in these situations and loves being here."
Before the year, there was a big question as to how Suter would be without Shea Weber and vice versa. Dowell said, "He’s a big part of why Shea Weber was Shea Weber. Shea Weber is a great player, but Ryan’s proved to a lot of people that he’s that caliber of a player as well. He was incredible this year."
Mike Yeo: "You don’t realize what a good person this is, you don’t realize what a tremendous leader he is, the character that he has. He’s been a huge part, obviously with his play, but as much with his attitude, his character, his personality in really helping our organization take a big step."
On Suter not being with Weber, Yeo said, "There was no concern on our part. Obviously Shea is a tremendous hockey play, but that’s how highly we respected Ryan and his abilities. We knew there was going to be a bit of an adjustment period – new system, new teammates, new partner. There was a lot of things for him to get used to. … He adjusted relatively quickly if you think about all those things. Once he really started to get on top of his game, it was clear the effect that it had on the rest of our team.”
Blackhawks stalwart defenseman Duncan Keith wasn't at the morning skate. Keith flew home to Chicago, where his wife gave birth to a boy -- their first child. Keith is flying back to Minnesota and expected to play tonight.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Dan Carcillo "could play," which the Blackhawks scribes say is his coachspeak for "will play." Henrik Karlsson will back up Corey Crawford again. Coach Q says Ray Emery is "close."
Remember, live chat at 3 on startribune.com. Game 5 in Chicago on Thursday will be at 8:30 p.m.
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