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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ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom strained his groin during the first period of Friday’s 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils and will not be in uniform Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Wild recalled Matt Hackett from Houston to back up Josh Harding.
Backstrom did travel, however, and is day-to-day.
“I don’t think it’s too serious. [He’ll miss] a few days,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Cal Clutterbuck, who missed Friday’s game with a leg injury, will decide during Sunday’s morning skate if he can play against the Ducks, while defenseman Justin Falk was placed on injured reserve and did not make the trip due to an “upper body” injury.
Defenseman Nate Prosser was recalled and center David McIntyre was reassigned.
Morning from the X, where back-to-back 5-2 home losses caused a management reaction this morning.
The Wild has reassigned defenseman Nate Prosser and center Warren Peters and recalled forwards Casey Wellman and David McIntyre. McIntyre, acquired this offseason from the New Jersey Devils for Maxim Noreau, will play tonight against Tampa Bay, meaning he'll make his NHL debut.
McIntyre will center a fourth line that coach Mike Yeo hasn't been happy with of late. Last night, as I mentioned on Twitter, he kept throwing them out to gain energy and momentum after goals against, and they'd spent the entire shifts in their own zone. Colton Gillies will be scratched.
Coach Mike Yeo calls McIntyre fast and tenacious, and he certainly showed that during a few impressive preseason games. Yeo has not been happy with Gillies' play of late, and he thinks Wellman and McIntyre can add a little "life."
Wellman leads the American Hockey League with seven power-play goals and ranks seventh with 11 goals. It sounds like he'll start on the fourth line with a chance to move up if he plays well. Yeo said he's not a believer in just giving ice time. He's got to earn it.
The Wild didn't skate this morning, but my guess is Cal Clutterbuck, who has four goals in eight games and has been shooting the puck a ton, will skate with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. I'm thinking Devin Setoguchi skates with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
The Wild also activated defenseman Greg Zanon off injured reserve,
so don’t be surprised if Zanon returns from a groin injury for the first time in 17 games and Mike Lundin makes his Wild debut, likely for banged-up and suddenly-struggling Justin Falk. and he will return tonight for the first time in 17 games. Mike Lundin will also make his Wild debut after missing all season with a back injury.
Lundin will be paired with Nick Schultz, playing the right side. Greg Zanon will be paired with Clayton Stoner. Marco Scandella is paired with Jared Spurgeon and Justin Falk, banged up, will be scratched.
I'd assume Mathieu Garon starts for Tampa Bay tonight. The Lightning is coached by Guy Boucher, now amazingly the longest tenured Southeast Division coach with today's firings of Bruce Boudreau in Washington and Paul Maurice in Carolina.
Also, I talked to Clutterbuck, and it was Clutterbuck who sprayed Jarome Iginla in the visor with a water bottle after he says Iginla taunted the Wild bench. Clutterbuck also clarified it was Gatorade, not water.
Coach Mike Yeo said he will come back with Niklas Backstrom tonight and give him a chance to respond.
Lastly, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Wild prospects Brett Bulmer and Zack Phillips have been invited to Canada's world junior camp.
Talk to you tonight. Happy Cyber Monday everybody!
This is going to have to be one night where the game story on www.startribune.com/wild speaks for itself. The story with quotes should be up in an hour or so. But it's 12:15 a.m. I have a 30-minute ride back to my hotel and a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call (at least) staring me in the face.
Just a reminder that Eric Nystrom will either clear re-entry waivers or be claimed by 11 a.m. Wednesday.
I have no doubt that the Wild did this to entice another team to take him at half his $1.4 million salary.
If he does clear, the Wild must make a roster move before, I believe, 4 p.m. Wednesday, and the options are limited:
1. Make a trade
2. Put a player on injured reserve depending on how it came out of tonight's game.
3. Reassign a player that, I'm told by league peeps, DOES NOT require waivers. That limits the players. I believe the only players that can be reassigned without waivers are Marco Scandella (not bloody likely), Brett Bulmer (would have to be returned for the year to his junior team in Kelowna, and I'd be shocked if the Wild made such a longterm decision for such a shortterm problem) and Jared Spurgeon (may have to be the temporary solution if the Wild has to go this route).
Again though, I think they believe at 700K, a team would put in a claim for Nystrom.
Dallas is apparently about 400K below the cap floor, however, when Adam Pardy comes off LTIR imminently, that would give Dallas 24 players unless somebody else goes on IR. That means their cheapest player would have to go to the minors at 800K. I talked to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News today, and he said that would mean the Stars would need about 1.2 million in salary to add. So taking Nystrom at half price actually wouldn't cut it.
Another team that's popped into my head is Montreal. Last week, they took Blair Betts off waivers. They since had to return Betts to Philadelphia because he was hurt. Nystrom comes from that Blair Betts mold of player.
Just an fyi: I got some emails asking if the Wild had to make roster moves regardless because Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brad Staubitz are eligible to return from suspensions Thursday. They have been on the 23-man roster all along. Theoretically, if you had four players suspended at the same time, you'd have to play a player short.
Always good being back in Ottawa.
Chatted with Len Boogaard (Derek's dad) tonight. He was at the game with his wife, Jody. Check out the blog I wrote below on what Len and Jody have done.
Also, good catching up with Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, who works for Sportsnet up here. He was the longtime Panthers analyst when I was down in Fla.
Also, great catching up with Todd White, who watched two periods of hockey with me tonight. He taught me the game and I taught him sportswriting. White, the former Wild center, is still experiencing post-concussion syndrome and has effectively retired. He's worked for the Sens alumni and doing pre- and post-game radio for the Team 1200 here in Ottawa. He also wants Mikko Koivu to light it up and help his fantasy hockey team.
Kent's covering practice, but I'll be back on here after I land in Minnesota and on Twitter (@russostrib) when I know if Nystrom's been claimed or cleared.
Afternoon from Denver. I'm about to walk back to the Pepsi Center for tonight's game, but some quick updates:
-- Thoughts and prayers with Chuck Kobasew and his family. I've been keeping this under wraps for a month, but his mother has been sick and this morning he was granted a leave of absence from the team to be with her. He flew home to Vancouver and the Wild has told him to take as much time as he needs. Kobasew was with the Wild in Denver for the two-game trip at the time because he was close to returning from a groin injury.
-- Clayton Stoner has an upper body injury. Coach Todd Richards didn't think the injury occurred in the Jordin Tootoo fight and he did not yet have a timetable as to how long the defenseman will be out. Justin Falk plays in Stoner's place tonight. No updates on Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He continues to practice daily and travel with the team. Richards said Bouchard's still "on pause."
-- This means the Wild has 18 skaters tonight in Colorado, just enough to dress four lines of forwards and three defense pairs. If the Wild gets out of tonight unscathed, it might go with the same lineup in Calgary. However, it'll reassess the lineup after the game and may call up a few players just in case for Monday's game in Calgary. Obviously if somebody got sick or hurt Monday morning, it'd be difficult to get somebody up to Calgary last-second. So I'd think the Wild makes some roster moves Sunday regardless of what happens tonight.
Lines to start tonight's game:
Richards said Cullen's been moved to the left side in an effort to get him going offensively. For that to happen, they needed a center to move up (Brodziak), which is why Nystrom's moved from the left wing to the unnatural center position on the fourth line.
Talk to you tonight, and again, all the best for Chuck Kobasew, his mom and entire family.
Kent Youngblood covering today's game.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who missed last night's loss to Philadelphia with a leg injury, didn't practice today and is doubtful to play in Friday's 1 p.m. game vs. his old team, the Nashville Predators. Zidlicky is "possible" for Saturday's game at Colorado, said GM Chuck Fletcher.
Right wing Chuck Kobasew practiced again today. He's not expected to play Friday, but Fletcher says he's getting closer. No roster moves today.
-- Friday's game is a battle between the two lowest scoring teams in the West. Wild has averaged 2.35 goals per game, Nashville 2.25. However, for some unknown reason, these two teams typically play high-scoring games against each other.
-- This is a battle of the two of the best defensive teams (at least in terms of goals against) in the West. The Wild's averaged 2.55 goals against a game, fourth in the West, and the Preds have averaged 2.6 goals against a game, fifth in the West.
-- The Wild is 6-2-1 all-time in its annual Day-After-Thanksgiving matinee and has won the last two.
-- The Wild is 4-2 in its last six home games against Nashville and have scored five or more goals on three occasions.
-- Captain Mikko Koivu has registered points in five of his last six matches vs. the Predators (2-4=6), including two multi-point games.
-- Right wing Martin Havlat’s 31 points (11-20=31) against Nashville are his most against any NHL team.
-- Goalie Jose Theodore is expected to start his first game at Xcel Energy Center. His last action at the arena came Nov. 24, 2008, when he allowed four goals on 33 shots in a 4-3 loss for the Washington Capitals. In his career, including playoffs, Theodore is 2-3-1 all-time at Xcel Energy Center with a 2.58 GAA and .912 SV%.
Couple other things:
To end Movember – the team’s charitable endeavor to raise awareness for cancers that affect men -- the Wild is looking to break a Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people with mustaches at Friday’s game.
Avoid Traffic Delays by Using Alternate Routes to Xcel Energy Center and Saint Paul RiverCentre During Thanksgiving Weekend
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Patrons planning to attend Friday's game should allow extra time and use alternate routes to avoid traffic congestion. Heavier traffic is expected due to the game and Hmong New Year.
Ample parking is available near Xcel Energy Center and Saint Paul RiverCentre. For way-finding information and parking maps, visit http://www.xcelenergycenter.com/GettingHere/Parking.jsp or http://www.rivercentre.org/parking/, which offer alternate routes to the most convenient parking locations for events in Saint Paul.
SOME OTHER TIPS
- Hop on the bus. Call Metro Transit at 612-373-3333 (TTY 612-341-0104) or visit www.metrotransit.org.
- Whenever possible, carpool.
- Get the latest traffic reports at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/tmc/trafficinfo/traffic.html
- Check the latest weather reports before you hit the road.
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