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.
I'll update this with some more Parise stuff after I transcribe.
I will be on KFAN at 5:20 with Dan Barriero and on KFAN Thursday morning from 9:15-11 a.m. with Paul Allen.
CHICAGO STUFF TODAY, courtesy of my friend, Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun
on Suter playing 41 minutes
“He’s a tremendous defenceman. There aren’t many guys around who can do that. We want to force him to make as many tough plays as possible, try and wear him down, even though that’s very tough. We have enough forwards to keep him busy. If we keep playing our game eventually we’ll eventually break through him.”
on Minnesota shutting things down, protecting Harding.
“We know they’re doing a great job trying to block as many shots as possible, but if our game is working we’re going to fine.”
on Wild style
“That’s how they’ve played us all season. We kind of expected that in Game 1 and it’s not going to change. It’s up to us to keep being as tough as we can on their goaltender, get more second efforts and more traffic. We have to keep wearing them down as much as we can.
“We like to think of ourselves as an offensive team that can score in a lot of different ways.
“It’s nothing short of amazing. I have a lot of respect for a guy like that... I read his quotes about not wanting any sympathy, he’s going to keep working, keep playing. You have to respect an opponent like that, especially when he’s going through something like that. Seeing the way he played, the stops he made was pretty cool. We know he’s stepping into that spot light an assuming that responsibility, which isn’t an easy thing to do... but what we want to do as a team is be tougher on their goaltender. We need to do that.”
“That’s a lot to do with their coaching staff over there and the way they play the game, well disciplined, good in all areas. There’s not going to be too many easy games or easy opportunities to score. But we feel comfortable playing that style of game. We’ve propven we can be successful playing that way.”
Playing through adversity like Harding is:
“It seems commonplace in today’s game, especially hockey, to play through injuries and different situations. You have to tip your hat to what Josh is going through on their side. It’s pretty amazing that he’s able to play at the level he does, it’s an inspiration for a lot of people. My personal story would probably be Duncan Keith in the playoffs in 2010. I don’t even know if he missed a shift, maybe one or two, after he lost nine teeth. That’s one thing that was pretty impressive to me.”
“Sometimes when you have bumps and bruises or minor injuries you look to the guy next to you that is dealing with something much worse and it makes it a little easier.”
No mullet for him, just Saad and Kane
“In 2010 Kaner and I got the mullets originally but I backed out the day before the first game. I didn’t want to deal with my mom and dad giving me heck after every game, telling me I look like an idiot. We’ll leave that up to those two.”
“It was unbelievable. During the game we noticed he was out there quite a bit. Then we saw the sheet after the game and he had 41 minutes. It was unbelievable. I remember Dunc and I played 30 minutes at the end of overtime and it felt like a lot. 41 is pretty crazy.”
On the Oduya pass off the glass to set up the OT winner: “I think that was one of the best indirect passes you’ll ever see. I think Johhny saw the play unfolding and meant to do that. It turned out to be a special pass.”
Fighting through Minnesota’s style: “I expected a tight series, low scoring games. Minnesota has always defending the front of their net extremely well. The clean looks through the middle of the ice in their end are going to be hard to find.
“If we want to play a pretty game into that type of traffic it’s going to lead to them having some success. We have to play an uglier game.”
UPDATED: (I will be hosting a live chat on startribune.com at 3 p.m. Tuesday)
Wild forward Jason Pominville, who missed the last two games of the regular season with a head injury, was back in practice this morning and back on his line with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Coach Mike Yeo didn't say definitively if he will be available for Game 1, ... but he's obviously returning, which will deepen the Wild's lines against a Chicago team that isn't afraid to roll four.
"[Pominville] looked good in practice today," said Yeo. "He's a big part of our team in a lot of areas. The offenisve threat that he is, smart player, plays in all situations for us, and as much as anything else, the experience that he has in the playoffs and his leadership, obviously he's a big part of our team."
Fourth line has Mike Rupp, Torrey Mitchell and Cal Clutterbuck. Basically, look at yesterday's blog and those projected lines are correct.
The defense pairings are different.
Marco Scandella, a 2008 second-round pick that has played 89 NHL games, is here and skated with Jared Spurgeon, meaning Scandella will immediately be thrust into the lineup and make his playoff debut. In fact, Ryan Suter is the only D with playoff experience.
Scandella has played a lot of minor-league playoff games and is coming off two good ones for Houston.
"We've seen Marco play a lot of good games," Yeo said. "The skating ability, the big body, the execution, his best games are very, very good, and that's what we're counting on him to come up and bring."
He has had a rocky, injury-filled year, but the reports from the two Aeros postseason games were "excellent," said Yeo. "And in a lot of ways, that's sort of what we've been waiting for. ... A lot of it for us has been getting him to the point where he was back and comfortable and he was playing well. We weren't sure when this was going to happen, and we were hoping it was going to happen a little bit earlier, but we are happy to have him here."
Clayton Stoner is with Tom Gilbert. Justin Falk is the extra. Obviously that's a kick to the stomach of Falk, who has been here all year and is benched for somebody who has been in the minors most the year. He was clearly frustrated but took the high road. Yeo said, "We need everybody here committed to winning, and getting here is very important, but we're not satisfied with just getting here. Things can change in a hurry. There's sacrifices to be made. What's really important is everybody keeps a good attitude."
Stephane Veilleux was reassigned.
On playing the Hawks, Yeo said, "Game 1 it resets. We know that they're a good team and we have a lot of respect for them, but everything starts fresh right now. We've won zero games and they've won zero games."
In one interesting note, the Wild will return to Minnesota after Game and is scheduled to practice here Wednesday and Thursday as opposed to staying in Chicago for the two off-days.
Dave Bolland and Ray Emery didn't practice for Chicago today and have been ruled out by coach Joel Quenneville.
Here are the Blackhawks updated lines:
Henrik Karlsson will back up Corey Crawford.
Rachel Blount here, filling in for Russo at Thursday's Wild practice. Two days after that ginormous victory over LA, the relief still was evident on the ice and in the locker room. Several players were quick to note that the team hasn't locked up anything yet--that could happen as soon as tonight, when a Columbus loss to Dallas in regulation would put the WIld into the playoffs--but the pressure certainly was eased by Tuesday's 2-1 win.
The only downer for the Wild is the injury to Jason Pominville. He didn't practice today after being leveled by a Dustin Brown elbow to his head in Tuesday's game. Coach Mike Yeo said he didn't have an update on Pominville's health, other than to say he is day-to-day. Mike Rupp participated fully in practice, though he isn't certain whether he will be ready to rejoin the lineup Friday against Edmonton at Xcel Energy Center. Rupp said he was encouraged by how he felt Thursday, but he doesn't want to be a liability. He and Yeo will talk after Friday' s morning skate to assess his condition.
Yeo will be watching tonight's Columbus-Dallas game on TV. Zach Parise will not, but he will keep tabs on it. Both of them stressed that the Wild must remained focused on its own business. Even if it gets that playoff berth via a Columbus loss, there is still plenty at stake. Yeo said the Wild must treat Friday's game as a must-win, and Parise said it is important for the Wild to be at its best.
"We still need to lock up a good seed,'' Parise said. "More importantly, we want to make sure we're playing the right way and we're getting good habits going into the playoffs.You don’t want to just kind of limp in.''
Parise said one key to the LA victory was the pressure the Wild forwards put on the Kings as they were breaking out of their zone. The Kings, he said, often make opponents feel as if they are playing against nine guys at the same time; Tuesday, the Wild applied that same kind of pressure. "Our forwards did a really good job of coming back,'' he said. "That good back pressure lets our D stay up a little more, and we're in their face more. And once we're in their face more, we get the puck back and then go back on the attack. We did that really well against LA, better than I think we've done it all season. I hope we saw how effective it was and that we can keep playing like that.''
Yeo liked the emotional balance he has seen in recent days. On Tuesday, he said, the Wild was sharp and focused without being uptight. He views that as the ideal mindset. "What has impressed me the last couple days with this group is that we've acted like we've been here before,'' he said. "It's important that you're intense and you're ready to play the game. But there has to be a certain degree of looseness and confidence to the way you approach the games, and I felt we had that.''
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