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.
As speculated in today's paper, the Wild did indeed flip backup goalies this morning. With Niklas Backstrom sidelined with a concussion, Johan Gustafsson was reassigned to AHL Iowa and Darcy Kuemper recalled for the two-game road trip to Montreal and Ottawa (actually a four-game trip, but the Wild's returning home Thursday before heading to Winnipeg on Friday for practice).
Kuemper will likely start Wednesday in Ottawa unless the Wild acquires another backup beforehand. Kuemper has had a very up and down year for Iowa, and that was epitomized this past weekend when he got lit up Friday night but came back Saturday and made 32 saves in a 1-0 loss to Milwaukee.
But Gustafsson is not ready for an NHL start. So Kuemper is the guy. The 6-5 former Western Hockey League Player of the Year and Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year went 1-2-0 with a 2.08 GAA and a .916 SV% in six games (three starts) with the Wild last season (excluding postseason).
In Toronto earlier this year, Kuemper gave up three goals on seven shots in 31 minutes and was pulled in a game the Wild absolutely dominated. The hope is that was an aberration because he was treated like a yo-yo during that time. Remember, he was up in Minnesota as a backup, was returned to Iowa to make his first start of the season, then flew to Buffalo to serve as backup to Josh Harding before starting in Toronto the next night.
We talked to Kuemper today and he believes it was just a blip on the radar. He's confident going into Wednesday's expected start. I'll put those quotes in Wednesday's paper.
As I've reported, if Backstrom is going to be out long, I'd suspect the Wild gets a backup in here via signing, trade or waivers. Jason LaBarbera was placed on waivers today by the Edmonton Oilers. It'll be interesting to see if he is of interest to Minnesota or any of the other teams -- Chicago, Islanders, Los Angeles, Nashville -- who suddenly need goalies. He has 60 NHL wins, although ... he'd be a true stopgap. The puck has a hard time hitting him and he doesn't exactly get my heart racing.
After doing a little digging, it would surprise me if the Wild put in a claim.
I talked to Josh Harding, and he told me his red pads won't be worn in games because his teammates say they see holes easier behind him. I then showed Harding pics of Trevor Kidd's infamous checkered pads in Carolina and Florida. Kidder was a treat to cover, by the way.
I'm doing a big story on Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund tomorrow. As I wrote in yesterday's blog, Team Finland's GM Jari Kurri and coach Erkka Westerlund were at the game watching them for the Olympics, and I talked to both men.
I'm also writing about Marco Scandella, who is playing great and is returning to play in his hometown of Montreal for the second time. He was real good today.
And, from the NHL:
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Ben Scrivens,
Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin and Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding
have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Nov. 17.
FIRST STAR – BEN SCRIVENS, G, LOS ANGELES KINGS
Scrivens went 3-0-1 with a 0.66 goals-against average, .977 save
percentage and two shutouts to help the Kings improve to 14-6-1 (29
points), their best record through the first 21 games of a season since
1990-91 (15-5-1, 31 points). He relieved injured starter Jonathan Quick for
the final 1:20 of overtime, serving as the goaltender of record in a 3-2
shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres Nov. 12. Scrivens then started the next
three games, posting 23 saves in a 3-2 comeback victory over the New York
Islanders Nov. 14 and recording consecutive shutouts against the New Jersey
Devils Nov. 15 (26 saves) and New York Rangers Nov. 17 (37 saves). The
27-year-old native of Spruce Grove, Alta., has not allowed a goal in his
last 155:02 of playing time and leads the NHL with a 1.24 goals-against
average, .955 save percentage and three shutouts in eight appearances this
SECOND STAR – TYLER SEGUIN, C, DALLAS STARS
Seguin paced all players with five goals and tied for first with
seven points in leading the Stars to three straight victories. He scored
the insurance marker in a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers Nov. 13. Seguin
then tallied a career-high four goals, including the game-winner, and five
points in a 7-3 triumph over the Calgary Flames Nov. 14, becoming the first
Stars player to register four goals in a game since Nov. 16, 2007 (Jussi
Jokinen). He capped the week by collecting an assist in a 2-1 victory over
the Vancouver Canucks Nov. 17, extending his point streak to four games
(6-2—8). The 21-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., leads the Stars, and is
tied for sixth in the NHL, with 12-11—23 in 20 games this season.
THIRD STAR – JOSH HARDING, G, MINNESOTA WILD
Harding posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.38 goals-against average
and .939 save percentage to help the Wild improve to 13-4-4 (30 points),
their most points through the first 21 games of a season in franchise
history. He relieved injured starter Niklas Backstrom in a 2-1 win over the
Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 13, stopping 19 shots, plus another two in the
shootout, in 54:29 of playing time. Harding then recorded 22 saves in a 3-2
victory over the Florida Panthers Nov. 15 and 21 stops in a 2-1 triumph
over the Winnipeg Jets Nov. 17 to extend his home-ice winning streak to 10
games. The 29-year-old native of Regina, Sask., is 12-2-2 in 17 appearances
this season and ranks second in the League in goals-against average (1.25),
save percentage (.946) and shutouts (tied, 2).
Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner, coming back from a leg injury, was just supposed to skate on his own today before the team practiced. But he felt so good after doing so that he joined the Wild and took part in practice.
And that means there is a chance Stoner could return to action Tuesday against Toronto. “We’ll see how it goes as far as tomorrow,” coach Mike Yeo said.
His return would be big. Because Keith Ballard, who has missed two games with an upper body injury, was put on injured reserve Tuesday.
Here are other items from today’s practice:
--A Toronto writer at practice today, doing a story on Josh Harding, asked Yeo if he felt goalie Josh Harding should be considered for the Canadian Olympic team.
“I do,” Yeo said. “Absolutely, I do. You look at numbers, you look at stats, you look at wins, he’s certainly made a case for himself. You want players to put themselves in a position where they’re opening eyes and getting attention from other people. I think he deserves that.”
Harding is first in the league in goals-against (1.22) and tied for first with two shutouts. He is second with a .947 save percentage and seventh in wins.
Harding, who is battling multiple sclerosis, is not talking about that condition this year. Indeed, his play has pushed that issue to the back burner, something Yeo emphasized today.
“The thing about him is, if it wasn’t for all the questions I get on a day-to-day basis, I’d probably forget about it, to be honest with you,” Yeo said. “What impressed me about him? Last year it was always there, because we had to learn so much about it with the doctors. We had to have so much communication with him and with the trainers, just how to deal with it. This year it’s almost been a non-issue. He just comes to the rink and he’s just another player. He’s gone out and played at such a high level you almost forget it’s there. We’ll never forget what he has to deal with. But, at the same time, it’s impressive the way he comes to the rink. We don’t talk about it, and he doesn’t want us talking about it.”
--As expected, Mike Rupp, who has yet to play this season after having off-season knee surgery, will put in a conditioning stint with Iowa Wild. “He’ll play there Wednesday and Friday,” Yeo said. “And we’ll get him back here.”
Good morning from Washington D.C, where the Wild opens up a two-game trip tonight against the Capitals.
This Sunday, I plan to publish my first Q and A blog mailbag of the season in my Sunday Insider. For that to work, in the comment section of this blog, ask away about the Wild or NHL. Make the questions short and snappy because space is at a premium in the paper. Scan the questions and try not to ask the same ones again.
Please don't have conversations on this blog. This way I can easily pick some of the questions out for my blog. Ask a good, easy-to-answer question, and you'll likely find your way included.
I'll update this blog later if there's any morning skate news.
In this morning's newspaper, I did a fun feature on former Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt, who has been playing alongside Mike Green on the Caps' No. 1 D unit.
There were two anecdotes Schmidt talked about in the article, one where he got into it with former Gophers teammate Nick Bjugstad the other day, one where he talked about the outer body experience he had during the Capitals' traditional "Unleash the Fury" rally compilation.
Here is a little video of the Schmidt-Bjugstad scrum, and also a video of the Unleash the Fury the Caps do during games.
Well, you've got to admit the first-line RW story in today's newspaper at least read well.
Of course, it's outdated now.
Torrey Mitchell won't be the first-line right wing tonight. Nor will Justin Fontaine.
That's because when the Wild said Charlie Coyle was day-to-day, it meant it. Coyle, who missed the last game vs. New Jersey with knee soreness, will return tonight against scrappy Calgary, and will play right wing next to Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
Mitchell is on the fourth line with Dany Heatley and Zenon Konopka, while Fontaine is on the checking line with Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak.
Coyle said he tweaked his knee late in Friday's game against Montreal, but doctors tell him the knee is stable and he says he'll just have to maybe play through soreness the next few weeks or even months. It'll be interesting to see how he plays off the hop. He has missed 12 of 13 games since one game and a half to start the season. The league has ramped up while Coyle's been sidelined, so don't be surprised if it takes Coyle a little time to get up to snuff.
He has missed a lot of time.
The hope is Coyle can help Parise and Koivu break out at even-strength. Koivu and Parise have combined for nine 5-on-5 points in 15 games this season.
"Adds a lot to that line," coach Mike Yeo said. "We’ve seen a lot of moving parts on that side, so we get a guy that both Mikko and Zach are not only familiar with ... but can help them play at their best."
Yeo says the chances have been there, but like Koivu and Parise, he wants to see more finish. But he feels consistency on that line can only help because some nights, shift to shift or period to period, they're playing with a different right wing.
"The goals will come," Coyle said. "As long as we just get on the puck and forecheck and play hard down low and win battles, we’ll be OK."
Coyle said he did come away from that PK Subban open-ice hit from behind scot-free in the third. He said it just shook him up at the time, "but I'm good. I'm good."
Interesting message coming from the Wild's room this morning. You know how I always say things are never as bad as they seem when you're losing and never as good as they seem when you're winning, well, the Wild has won five of six, which has masked some concerns.
The message today is the Wild is not playing as well as it was at the beginning of the season when it was losing games and it better find a way to improve.
Tonight is an interesting game. The Flames may not have Iggy and Kipper anymore, but they're a hard-working team that just walked into Chicago and took two points behind a rookie goalie who played lights out.
Simple recipe tonight: Wild outworks the Flames, it likely wins. Get outworked, it likely loses.
Same D tonight, meaning Matt Dumba sits for a third game in a row. The D is playing well, the Wild's suddenly healthy with eight defensemen, he's coming off a poor game. Easy decision to sit him.
Yeo believes Dumba's development won't be stalled by hanging out for a little longer, being a sponge and working with assistants Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor. However, Yeo is of the mind that young kids must play, so it'll be interesting how long the Wild is willing to keep scratching him.
The risk of sending him back is that if the Wild suddenly runs into injuries again like when it lost Jonas Brodin and Keith Ballard at the same time, it would then have to turn toward Iowa beyond of course Nate Prosser. So the Dumba decision has a lot to do with how comfortable the Wild feels about its depth beyond Prosser -- i.e. Jon Blum, Kyle Medvec, Steve Kampfer, Tyler Cuma, etc.
GM Chuck Fletcher said, "We'll see how things go."
In other words, why make a decision today when you can make one tomorrow or the next day?
Carson McMillan skated, but with Coyle looking like he'll return, McMillan is probably Iowa-bound soon.
Josh Harding vs. Reto "Don't call me Yogi" Berra. Yeo would love to get Nik Backstrom back into a rhythm, but the way Harding has been playing (1.10 GAA and .950 SV% to lead the NHL), he is making this a no-decision. Just know, Yeo will have to eventually spot Backstrom a start no matter how Harding is doing.
With his multiple sclerosis and his propensity for injuries the past number of seasons, the Wild will not and can not run him into the ground. He will need to rest at times.
That's it for me. Have to continue working ahead on a couple features for Thursday and Saturday. In my game notebook in Wednesday's paper, I'll have more on Coyle, Dumba and Jason Pominville indeed being very much back on the Olympic radar for USA, USA, USA, USA!
Remember, he was born in Canada, but has dual citizenship. No USA-eligible player has more goals than Pominville's 10.
Talk to you tonight.
Wild right wing Jason Pominville was named the NHL's 'First Star' of the Week this morning.
Pominville tied for the league lead in goals (4) and points (6), scoring in all three games to help the Wild (8-4-3, 19 points) earn four out of a possible six points. The 30-year-old native of Repentigny, Quebec, has scored in four consecutive games (6-2—8), his longest goal-scoring streak since Nov. 12-19, 2008 (4-2—6 in four games). He is tied for third in the NHL with 10 goals this season and also leads the Wild with 10 goals and 12 points, three game-winning goals and a +6 rating in 15 games.
Remember, he has dual citizenship and could compete for the U.S. in the Olympics. He wasn't invited to Olympic orientation camp in August, but as USA Hockey GM David Poile told me in this blog, Pominville “probably should have” been invited to camp. Poile said Pominville’s name came up Sunday during a five-hour meeting with management and he has been “put back on the board,” meaning he will be scouted all season.
“If he plays well enough, he’s back in the mix,” Poile said, although he added that the big reason why Pominville wasn’t included is that there are just several forwards on the potential depth chart with their “foot in the door.”
Other Wild notes:
C Mikael Granlund has a career-best 5-game point streak (seven points). LW Nino Niederreiter has 9 points in 15 games with Minnesota after 3 points in 64 games with the Islanders. G Josh Harding has given up 11 goals in 11 games and leads the NHL with a 1.10 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.
I'll be live in studio on KFAN at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
|Vikings (32)||Gophers injuries (2)|
|Gophers on TV (1)||Gophers coaches (2)|
|Gophers players (7)||Gophers game day (6)|
|Gophers postgame (12)||Gophers awards and honors (1)|
|Gophers post season (1)||St. Cloud State (1)|
|Wild news (432)||Bears (5)|
|Lions (1)||Packers (2)|
|Super Bowl (6)||Vikings fans (3)|
|Ex-players (1)||Injury report (1)|
|On the road (158)||Rookies (34)|
|Roster moves (13)||Vikings draft (91)|
|Vikings trade talk (3)||Fighting (3)|
|Stanley Cup (28)||Wild coaching (32)|
|Wild game coverage (357)||Wild management (15)|
|Wild off-season news (421)||Wild player moves (122)|
|Wild practice (300)||Wild pregame skate (319)|
|Wild trade news (31)||Wild training camp (121)|
|Adrian Peterson (4)||Ben Leber (1)|
|Bernard Berrian (1)||Brad Childress (3)|
|Brett Favre (5)||Jared Allen (2)|
|Brad Childress (3)||NHL news (1)|
|2010 Winter Games (5)||Olympic hockey (24)|
|Olympic luge (3)||Olympic ski jumping (2)|
|Olympic skiing (2)||NHL draft (7)|
|Gophers sports (3)||Gophers (38)|