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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The Wild has recalled forward Mikael Granlund from AHL Houston with right wing Dany Heatley sidelined with what's believed to be a wrist injury. GM Chuck Fletcher said Heatley is "out," saying there is no timeframe as to when he will return at the moment.
Coach Mike Yeo indicated last night it would be awhile. Heatley was injured during a post-buzzer altercation with San Jose defenseman and former teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic cross-checked Heatley to the ice, then slashed him over the back. When Heatley got up, he swung his stick and missed. Vlasic proceeded to two-hand Heatley over the arm and basically jump him, finally lifted him from his knees and driving him hard back to the ice.
That's where I think Heatley was injured -- not on the slash, which resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct.
Heatley was in a lot of pain and skated fast to the exit as tempers flared and linesmen had to get in between the two teams. Vlasic said he was just defending himself, and the two were battling all period.
Vlasic has a hearing today at 2 p.m. ET. My guess is he gets at most a fine. Heatley, my guess, may get a call with a warning from the league for his swing and miss.
As for Granlund, with Matt Cullen hurt and Johan Larsson traded, my guess is the organization is looking for Granlund to center the second line so Coyle can essentially stay at wing and essentially replace Heatley's spot. I only say that because if Coyle was going to play center, I'd assume the natural callup would have been winger Jason Zucker.
Jason Pominville is scheduled to land in Los Angeles within the hour. Since the Wild didn't call up another forward with Granlund, I'd assume Pominville will make his Wild debut tonight. Otherwise, why make the guy fly to L.A. when he could have simply met the club in Columbus tomorrow?
The plan was for Pominville to slide into the right wing spot on the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu line tonight against the Kings.
If it were me, I'd go with
Setoguchi-Granlund-Coyle (Granlund and Coyle were productive linemates together in Houston)
Also, and I'm not confident it'll happen, but time to sit Clayton Stoner. You just can't have this many bad games in a row and not finally sit. It's costing them points, and I think anybody that reads me knows I like Stoner as a player and person.
Last night, the entire blue line was bad. But Stoner really stood out in a nightmarish game.
No morning skate today because of the second of back-to-back. So I may not know the lineup until a couple hours before game time when I meet with Yeo.
From the release:
Granlund, 21 (2/26/92), collected six points (1-5=6) in 19 games with Minnesota this season and registered a goal in his NHL debut vs. Colorado on Jan. 19. The 5-foot-10, 186-pound native of Oulu, Finland has recorded 28 points (10-18=28) in 29 games with the Aeros this season. Granlund tallied seven points (2-5=7) in nine games with Houston after being reassigned from Minnesota on March 12. He was named the AHL Rookie of the Month for October scoring 10 points (3-7=10) and a +5 rating in seven games.
The Wild has decided to give Niklas Backstrom a little extra rest. Backstrom, who had started 16 of the team's last 17 games and the last 12 straight, was left in the Twin Cities when the Wild boarded a plane for Dallas for Friday's game with the Wild. Backstrom, with an extra night of home rest, will presumably be back atop his game for Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center.
Matt Hackett was recalled from Houston, sending Jake Dowell back to the Aeros to make room. Now the only question left is whether it will be Hackett or Darcy Kuemper in goal against the Stars tomorrow. Hackett started for the Houston Aeros Tuesday but gave up seven goals in a loss to Texas in an AHL game. Kuemper, meanwhile, was in Houston from March 13 until being recalled March 24. He played most recently for Houston in a 3-2 victory March 22.
The Wild has signed veteran defenseman Brett Clark to a one-year deal, NHL sources say. He will be in town today to take his physical. If he passes, he will join the Wild tomorrow.
Excerpt of my updated blog after 1 a.m.:
The 36-year-old free agent, who you may remember as a longtime Colorado Avalanche, has been nearly a point-a-game player for AHL Oklahoma City since the lockout.
The Wild traded tough winger Matt Kassian to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday afternoon for a 2014 sixth-round pick.
Kassian, 26, a 2005 second-round pick who was signed to his first one-way contract last summer, scored two goals and amassed 67 penalty minutes in 26 games over parts of two seasons. He was scratched in every game this season before being placed on waivers Feb. 12. and eventually reassigned to Houston, so this gives him a chance to play.
I emailed with Senators GM Bryan Murray and Kassian will report directly to Ottawa.
Here is a feature I wrote on Kassian last year for all you Senators fans.
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