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 Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said after Anaheim's 3-2 win tonight at the Honda Center, the Wild "vastly outplayed" the Ducks in the final two periods "but we just hung on."
Unfortunately for Minnesota, it spotted the Ducks, who are off to their best start in club history (15-3-1), a 3-0 lead. It wasn't like the game here Feb. 1 when the Wild was literally pinned in its zone for pretty much 55 minutes.
Tonight, the Wild paid for not being crisp with the puck in the first period. Turnovers, being caught in between, and Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne gave Anaheim a 2-0 lead.
But the Wild dominated the second. Jonas Hiller kept the Wild, 6-3-1 in its past 10, at bay despite some bigtime chances. Then a puck deflected off Ryan Suter's skate and into the crease under Darcy Kuemper, and Matt Beleskey shuffleboarded (made-up verb) it home for the eventual winner.
Kyle Brodziak scored 29 seconds into the third and Devin Setoguchi followed, but the Wild could never get the equalizer despite a late power play against a team that's won eight in a row at home.
The Wild controlled the last 10 minutes of the game after assistant coach Rick Wilson shuffled the D pairs, some of which weren't sharp -- like for a rarity, Suter-Jonas Brodin. Jared Spurgeon, who had a strong game and was the only plus Wild player in 27:47 of ice time, played with Suter and Brodin with Nate Prosser, and momentum came.
No momentum came from a late power play. Brodziak was on the No. 1 unit, and that stemmed from the change in Phoenix where they threw him out there and Spurgeon scored the eventual winner. They're doing it for the net-front presence, but I still would like to see more flash on the power play, maybe more of a shooter, like I don't know, AHL power-play stud Jason Zucker!
Judging from the tweets, fans are clamoring, too. I understand that Yeo is limiting his ice time at 5-on-5. All coaches do this with rookies who may not be playing the system to a T. But I think it's time the kid gets some power-play time. Yeo said last week he was hesitant because the veterans deserve first shot. But the power play ranks 25th in the NHL and the Wild doesn't score enough 5-on-5 to continually be wasting must-score power plays.
But other than the first period, I liked the Wild's game tonight. The Wild was all over a terrific Anaheim team. The effort was outstanding. It just paid for some careless plays with the puck in the first.
Couple things: The Wild is spending the night here in Anaheim, flying home Saturday and not practicing. So there may be no blog if no news.
The temperature for Sunday's game against Edmonton may have been dialed down. Taylor Hall, who injured Cal Clutterbuck in Edmonton last week, left tonight's game at St. Louis with a reported hamstring injury.
So there's a chance Hall and Clutterbuck won't play at the X on Sunday, which also may kill the story I've been working on!
Clutterbuck definitely won't play. Yeo doesn't have an update yet as to how he's feeling, but even if Clutterbuck is perfectly healthy, he hasn't practiced or been on the ice with the team in eight days. So, he's not playing Sunday.
Kent Youngblood is covering the game Sunday, by the way, although I'm sure I'll still be there tweeting up a storm.
I'm off to Chicago on Monday, but on Monday before my flight, I will be filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN from 9-noon. I'm sure there will be plenty of hockey guests.
This afternoon, the NHL canceled the Dec. 15-Dec. 30 portion of the 2012-13 season. But, ... we're at the point in the lockout where we find silver linings in game cancelations!
This means the Wild can potentially open with its traditional New Year's Eve game!
In all honesty, it wouldn't be far-fetched.
Talks broke off Thursday with the NHL allegedly taking everything proposed last week off the table and an infuriated Gary Bettman huffing, puffing and overheating during a 40-minute news conference. This came after Don Fehr, knowing full well that the meeting with the league just went and ended poorly, stood behind a lectern minutes later and portrayed to the hockey world that there were so many agreements, the lockout was bound to end soon.
But, one would think the league would cancel games beyond Dec. 30 since there's allegedly no hope and things ended so poorly.
Dig deeper and nott a whole lot more in fact, these sides are closer to a deal than not provided 1) the NHL's moderate owners that Fehr and the players so enraged last week didn't really move to the hardliner column; 2) the league puts that $89 million "Make Whole" money back on the table and other proposals.
To do that, the players apparently have to agree to a 10-year CBA with an eight-year mutual out-clause, five-year max deals (seven if you re-sign your own players, a proposal Bill Daly said is the hill the owners would die on) and 5% max variances in salaries in every contract.
I still think the transition rules (buyouts, etc.) and how the salary cap is calculated will be a bit tedious to negotiate, too.
But the two sides made contact this past weekend and it sounds like they're trying to get together. And that always goes well.
So, don't think the emotional roller coasters are over in this excruciating lockout. There's bound to be a few more.
In the meantime, the cancelations mean 526 games scrapped from the schedule, as well as the Winter Classic and All-Star Game. That's 42.8 percent of the 2012-13 campaign. This means at max, it can now be the 12/31/12-13 campaign.
Catchy, ain't it?
Wild coach Mike Yeo, who has been making the rounds with area coaches during the lockout, is down at the Timberwolves today meeting with Rick Adelman. The big objective? Since the NBA had to have a shortened training camp last year once their lockout ended, Yeo wanted to get some tips and thoughts from Adelman.
The Gophers, who blew a three-goal lead to tie Colorado College on Saturday, then spent all day yesterday getting home because their plane was diverted to Omaha, is fourth in the USCHO.com poll.
Boston College is back to 1, followed by New Hampshire and Notre Dame. North Dakota is 8, Denver is 11, Nebraska-Omaha is 13, St. Cloud State is 17 and Minnesota State-Mankata is 20.
The Gophers are also ranked fourth in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. In fact, it's the same top-3 with North Dakota 8, Denver 10 and UNO 14. The Gophers are off until the Mariucci Classic Dec. 29 (Air Force) and Dec. 30 (Boston College).
The Houston Aeros' six-game winning streak ended last night with a 3-2 loss to Peoria. Charlie Coyle and Chay Genoway scored for the Aeros. Jason Zucker still leads all AHL rookies with 12 goals, is tied for the league lead of all players with six power-play goals and leads with two overtime winners. The Aeros are fourth in the West, play San Antonio Tuesday, at Charlotte Friday and Saturday and home vs. Oklahoma City on Sunday.
|Vikings (29)||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 (404)||Bears (4)|
|Lions (1)||NFL draft (1)|
|Packers (1)||Super Bowl (6)|
|Vikings fans (3)||Ex-players (1)|
|On the road (149)||Rookies (34)|
|Roster moves (12)||The draft (86)|
|Trade talk (3)||Fighting (3)|
|Stanley Cup (28)||Wild coaching (30)|
|Wild game coverage (318)||Wild management (13)|
|Wild off-season news (360)||Wild player moves (105)|
|Wild practice (267)||Wild pregame skate (285)|
|Wild trade news (28)||Wild training camp (90)|
|Adrian Peterson (4)||Ben Leber (1)|
|Bernard Berrian (1)||Brad Childress (3)|
|Brett Favre (5)||Jared Allen (1)|
|Brad Childress (3)||NHL news (1)|
|2010 Winter Games (5)||Olympic hockey (23)|
|Olympic luge (3)||Olympic ski jumping (2)|
|Olympic skiing (2)||NHL draft (7)|
|Gophers sports (3)||Gophers (38)|