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.

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Posts about Wild pregame skate

Parise, Spurgeon out tonight; Dumba, Folin scratched; more on Kleinendorst

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 11, 2014 - 3:57 PM

Update: Cory Schneider starts for the Devils, Martin Havlat plays for the first time in 10 games after a lower-body injury and ... former Gophers defenseman Seth Helgeson makes his NHL debut in place of injured Bryce Salvador.

Good afternoon from the Prudential Center, where the Wild tries to snap a three-game losing streak tonight against the New Jersey Devils.

There’s a chance fellow Long Islander Kevin (sorry) Keith Kinkaid may make his first NHL start. The 25-year-old undrafted former Union goalie from Farmingdale, N.Y., is 0-1 in two appearances with a 2.22 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Devils coach Pete DeBoer plans to divulge later on whether Kinkaid or Cory Schneider starts. He gave up four goals in a loss last night in Boston.

As coach Mike Yeo said after Monday’s practice in Minneapolis, Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon won’t play tonight. They are both on the trip just so they could skate with the team this morning with the hope of accelerating their return. Also, they spent a lot of time on the ice well after their teammates left the rink shooting pucks at Josh Harding, who got a good workload in. The Wild will have a better sense in the next few days how close Harding is to coming off suspension and a return. He’ll almost 100 percent require a conditioning stint with Iowa after not playing a game since Dec. 31.

Yeo said there’s a chance Parise and Spurgeon return Thursday at home against Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick, Torrey Mitchell and the Buffalo Sabres, but that will largely depend on how they feel after today’s hard skate and a practice Wednesday.

Rookie defensemen Matt Dumba and Christian Folin, who each made mistakes that led to the first and second goals by Montreal on Saturday night, won’t play tonight. Nate Prosser will go back to the second pair with Marco Scandella and Jon Blum will make his season debut on the third pair with Keith Ballard. Blum hasn’t played in a few weeks, so he’ll have to carve off some rust. He had been scratched in four straight since his Oct. 31 callup from Iowa.

On scratching Dumba and Folin, Yeo said cryptically: “I’m not going to say it’s only one game, but I definitely wanted to give them this game to kind of sit back. Different messages to each individual. I don’t think I need to get into it right now, but just as far as in terms of getting their game back to the level that we need it.”

My gut?

Dumba’s days at least are numbered barring an injury maybe tonight. As I wrote on the blog after the Canadiens game, most 20-year-old defensemen should be in the minors developing, not developing on the fly in the NHL and costing the team goals in a league where you can’t afford thrown away points in the standings.

My gut, again? The Wild knows this, but it also didn’t want him developing in a losing environment in Iowa and also didn’t want to send him down the past couple days knowing it was about to make a coaching change. Back coaching its minor-league team is John Torchetti, whom the Wild trusts wholeheartedly, a person the Wild considers a teacher. My guess is now that “Torch” is back, we’re going to see Dumba down in Iowa sooner rather than later (maybe fairly imminently) getting some games so he can regain some confidence, play a big role with No. 1 PP time, etc.

I asked Yeo if that could be on the horizon: “I would probably not talk about those decisions right now. Our focus remains the same as it was at the start of the year, and that’s No. 1 we’ve got to try to put the best product on the ice and no. 2 not only do we want to be good right now, we want to be good down the road, so we want to make sure that these guys are developing.”

Obviously, you know by now Kurt Kleinendorst has been let go by the Wild. General Manager Chuck Fletcher is not on the road with the team and has not made himself available yet on the decision, so he has not commented.

My biggest question for Fletcher will be on these kids down there. If you read Kleinendorst’s comments, it speaks volumes when most the guys he felt bought in and played their butts off for him were depth players and veterans like Stephane Veilleux, Justin Falk and Brett Sutter.

Good for them. It says everything about their character, but in a way, it says a whole lot about the other guys, too, and guys the Wild and Wild fans should care about. It certainly sounds like Torchetti will have quite the chore on his hands.

The reason Iowa exists is to develop the Brett Bulmers and Zack Phillips of the world, and guys like Tyler Graovac, Kurtis Gabriel, Raphael Bussieres, Johan Gustafsson. Bulmer and Phillips have been colossal disappointments since they turned pro, and the others haven’t been good this year.

So that has to be a concern for Fletcher.

I talked with Iowa GM Jim Mill, the Wild’s director of minor-league operations, and he said the Wild “absolutely” still believes in these prospects. “We have good prospects, we have really good leadership and depth there and we should be a much better team, but you can only say that so many times. Now we’re going to find out. We’re going to find out a lot about a lot of people.”

Like Kleinendorst said to me last night, Mill said when he met with KK after Sunday’s game to make the change, “Believe me, we agreed it was time for a change and it wasn’t working for whatever reason that I don’t have the answers to and he obviously didn’t have the answers to. It was time to get a different voice. This was not working.”

On Torchetti’s return, Mill said, “He was our coach for two years and he was going to be our coach going forward in Des Moines, but he was offered an opportunity financially that he couldn’t turn down [in Russia] and we were completely understanding what he had to try.

“He’s got a great track record of developing and winning. We believed in it at the time we hired him originally and still do and he’s done this transition thing before, which is a difficult thing.”

I typically take player quotes when a coach is fired with a grain of salt. You don’t often get the truth, but Iowa Wild captain Stephane Veilleux, up with the Big Wild right now, felt genuinely upset for Kleinendorst about the firing.

“It’s everybody together,” Veilleux said. “It’s not one individual, it’s not one coach. Sometimes it’s a team thing. You don’t want to put the blame necessarily on one aspect of the game. It’s the whole game in general. There’s some missing answers down there and sometimes there needs to be a change. He’s a great man. He won in the past. He got a Calder Cup. He did something right, you know? Sometimes for whatever reasons things don’t work out. You always feel bad for a guy like that. He’s the type of coach who was in his office from 6 in the morning ‘til 5 p.m. You hate to see a guy like him go.”

Lastly, from today’s skate:

Yeo on Parise not playing his old Devils: “I know for a fact that he would have loved to have been in the lineup to no. 1 to help us get things going in the right direction and no. 2  he’s had so many great memories here and this was such a big part of his career. It was difficult for him not to be in the lineup, but we just have to follow due process here with him and make sure when we get him back, we keep him in the lineup for good.”

On what he wants to see from Blum: “Composure. That’s what I’m expecting to see and that’s what we’re counting on him to bring. Execution coming out of our own zone hasn’t been good enough. It’s a big factor why we’re not scoring goals.”

Yeo said Matt Cooke’s injury is not coming along as quickly as everybody hoped and he’s not close to a return.

Ryan Carter’s excited for his return to New Jersey tonight.

Talk tonight.

Keith Ballard expected to return tonight; Mike Yeo explains scratching Nate Prosser

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 8, 2014 - 12:19 PM

Mike Yeo planned to talk with veteran defenseman Keith Ballard after the morning skate to make sure he was still feeling good, but the Wild coach’s expectation was that Ballard would play his second game of the season and first since Oct. 17 tonight when the Wild visits the Montreal Canadiens.

Good afternoon from the Bell Centre press room.

The Wild looks to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season against a struggling Canadiens team that has only two shootout wins in its past six games and hasn’t won in regulation since Oct. 25.

Darcy Kuemper will make his first road start since the five-goal third period against the Rangers six games ago and he’ll go against Olympic gold medalist Carey Price.

The Canadiens rank 27th offensively in the NHL with 2.07 goals per game. They have scored six goals in the past six games, which is stunning since they’re a fast team with a lineup that boasts Max Pacioretty and PK Subban, two guys who have registered hat tricks in the past against the Wild.

This will be a battle of the 28th-ranked and 29th-ranked power plays tonight. I’ll let you guess which team is ranked 29th.

Wild chief amateur scout Guy Lapointe will have his No. 5 retired by the Canadiens tonight. In a long overdue ceremony, Lapointe’s jersey will reunite with the fellow “Big Three” defensemen Larry Robinson and Serge Savard.

Reminder: the game starts at 6:30 p.m. CT even though it’s listed at 6 p.m. The ceremony starts at 5:30. Fox Sports North ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++’s coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Wild Live. KFAN’s pregame show starts at 6:15.

The Wild will be on the bench during the ceremony. Coach Mike Yeo conferred with the team’s leaders and the team decided it would only be right if the Wild players were on the bench. First of all, Yeo said, no team puts on a better show during pregame ceremonies than the Canadiens and it would be good of the Wild to witness part of the great history that is the Montreal franchise. Second of all, Yeo noted how good of a man Lapointe is and how he had a big influence in drafting many of the Wild’s players.

"We should all understand how lucky we are to be part of something so special like tonight,” Yeo said.

Yeo talked to the Wild about the ceremony. Warmups will be afterward, so Yeo said that will allow players to get their legs under them and their minds on the task at hand.

“We have to find a way,” Yeo said.

As I said, Ballard is expected to return. Nate Prosser will be scratched. Prosser had played nine games in a row.

Yeo is not happy with Prosser’s game lately. He was on for the power-play goal against in Ottawa, made the mistakes that led to the Brandon Sutter and Joe Thornton goals against Pittsburgh and San Jose and on for all three goals in Boston.

“He’s not quite there right now,” Yeo said when I asked why Prosser sits over rookie Matt Dumba. “What we’re looking for from Pross is reliability and making sure goals aren’t going in the net when he’s on the ice. I’m not pinning that on him right now, but at the same time, his game is not quite there.”

As for Dumba, Yeo said, “[Jared] Spurgeon’s absence creates a void on the power play. For a team that hasn’t had a whole lot of success on the power play to make an understatement, it’s tough to take guys out that give us a chance to get one.”

Dumba has 17 shots the past five games and second among Wild defensemen with 23 (one behind Marco Scandella and one ahead of Ryan Suter).

Also, Yeo said, “I know what Pross is going to be,” and indicated that part of Dumba’s development if the Wild’s going to have him on the team right now is to play in environments like Montreal. In addition, Yeo said, “Part of when you’re making up a lineup, you have to make sure your lineup is prepared for the type of game it’s going to be and this is going to be a skating game tonight,” which is why Yeo wants Ballard and Dumba playing over Prosser.

My guess is the Wild will really watch Ballard’s play and his ice time. He missed eight games with an illness and is just getting his energy back, so if he struggles or looks sluggish, I’d think we’d see Suter and Scandella double-shifted at times with Folin and Dumba maybe interchanging.

Lines for the Wild expected to be:

Vanek-Granlund-Pominville

Zucker-Koivu-Coyle

Niederreiter-Brodziak-Fontaine

Veilleux-Haula-Carter

Suter-Brodin

Scandella-Folin

Ballard-Dumba

Kuemper

Backstrom

See yesterday afternoon’s blog for more on tonight’s game and of course the articles in today’s paper on players needing to step up with Spurgeon, Zach Parise and Matt Cooke out and the Guy Lapointe piece. I’ll also have a column on Lapointe in tomorrow’s paper.

Zach Parise diagnosed with concussion; Niklas Backstrom starts tonight

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 6, 2014 - 11:40 AM

Niklas Backstrom will make his third start of the season tonight when the Wild visits the Ottawa Senators (6:30 p.m. CT, FSN, KFAN). I'll be on FSN's pregame show at 6 p.m. and during the first intermission.

Wild leading scorer Zach Parise has been diagnosed with a concussion, coach Mike Yeo confirmed this morning.

Not a surprise since Parise looked off his last few shifts against the Pittsburgh Penguins and suddenly didn't come out for the third period even though there was no clear incident to draw from.

According to a few people in the know, Parise did have lingering effects from the stick to the face he got in New York five games ago Oct. 27. He played through it though (quite well, too, against Boston and Dallas especially) because he wasn't sure he had a concussion. Finally, trainers got involved Tuesday night.

Whatever symptoms Parise had were exasperated bigtime with three checks he took against Pittsburgh, folks say. On his first shift, he was bowled over from behind by Roberto Bortuzzo. That definitely seemed to jar him and catch him off guard. In the second period, he got bumped off his skates in the d-zone by Blake Comeau on that shift that ended up 5:44 in with a Comeau penalty and then late in the period Parise got checked into the boards/glass by Kris Letang.

His last shift of the second, you can almost tell something was up when you watch it over on video. He sprinted in the corner to hound the puck and just didn't seem right when he skated back to the net.

There's no timetable for his return. I'm told Parise doesn't think this will be long-term. Coach Mike Yeo didn't want to guess if there's a chance he could play Tuesday in New Jersey, a game you know Parise would badly want to play. Yeo said when the Wild returns to the Twin Cities for a day-and-a-half after the Montreal game, the Wild will talk to the doctors and see from there.

"I just know something came on during the course of the game and luckily he was talking to our trainers and the trainers took the appropriate steps to make sure he met with the doctors. It's a tough blow," Yeo said.

Thomas Vanek, who has four shots in the past seven games and only one goal this season, will get a line with the team's best playmaker Mikael Granlund and his former Buffalo Sabres linemate Jason Pominville.

"It's important for guys like myself to step up in his absence and score some goals and get some wins for our team," Vanek said.

On playing with Pominville, Vanek said, "I feel like I know his game almost better than my own. It will be fun to be on the same line again with him, maybe a little strange at first, but I'm excited with it."

On his play: "Anytime you join a new team, you want to prove yourself because what you've done in the past doesn't matter. I'm still trying to find my niche here. I feel like I'm creating good chances for my teammates, but for myself, I don't think I've shot the puck enough or created enough on my own. I have to get going on that category."

Backstrom is 1-1 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .885 save percentage, winning his first game since Jan. 9 on Oct. 28 in Boston. The Senators are the only team in the NHL (other than the Wild, of course) Backstrom has not beaten. He is 0-1-1 in three starts vs. the Senators with a 3.64 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.

Craig Anderson will start for Ottawa. Chris Phillips is out.

Kyle Brodziak's wife had their second child yesterday, Leo Dino Brodziak. Brodziak is currently on a plane flying to Ottawa and is expected to play tonight.

Keith Ballard may have had the mumps; No. 1 offense (Pens) vs. No. 1 defense (Wild) tonight

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 4, 2014 - 5:17 PM

Afternoon from Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins face off tonight.

No. 1 offense in the NHL vs. the No. 1 defense in the NHL, although the Wild’s offense hasn’t been too shabby either. The Wild has scored 22 goals in the past five games and ranks third with 3.4 goals per game and second with 35 shots per game.

The Wild has outshot all 10 opponents 350-228.

The Pens have averaged a league-best 4.1 goals per game and has a ridiculous 41.9 percent success rate on the power play. They lead the league with 18 power-play goals, including 10 in the past four games, two or more in seven games and three in three games.

In the past three games, the Penguins have scored 15 unanswered goals. Yes, you heard me. Fifteen unanswered goals in the past three games.

The Wild may have gotten a break though tonight.

The Penguins will give No. 3 Star of the Week Marc-Andre Fleury, who has three shutouts in the past four games, the start off. Thomas Greiss gets the nod. He is 1-2 lifetime against the Wild with a 2.36 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

This will be his second start of the season and first since Oct. 23, an overtime loss at Detroit in which he gave up four goals on 31 shots. Fleury is 0-5 lifetime against the Wild.

Robert Bortuzzo will make his season debut. Defenseman Olli Maatta, who lit the Wild up last season, has a tumor on his thyroid and is undergoing surgery, so keep the youngster in your thoughts.

The Wild’s Ryan Carter looks like he’ll return after missing last game with an upper-body injury. He took regular line rushes alongside Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine. Coach Mike Yeo, Pittsburgh’s former assistant, said the final decision will be made after warmups. If he can’t play, Stephane Veilleux will play.

Otherwise, no other lineup changes for the Wild. It’ll be interesting watching Matt Dumba tonight. He is arguably coming off his best game as a pro, and that’s regardless of the winning goal, so can he build on that? Same with Mikko Koivu, who has a goal, assist and 13 shots the past two games and Thomas Vanek, who finally scored a goal yet only has three shots in the past six games. He also amazingly hasn’t been credited with a hit or a blocked shot in 10 games. Vanek has seven points in the past six games.

This will be Haula’s first game vs. Evgeni Malkin (10-game point streak this season) since the Russian star broke the Finn’s jaw in the world championship title game last May. It was Haula’s first shift of the game and Malkin threw up his stick to protect himself from a Haula check. Haula skated right into it. He threw on a bubble and managed to play the rest of the game. He didn’t need surgery.

“When you get a stick in someone’s face, I think it’s a dirty play, but I don’t think it was intentional,” Haula said. “I think he was protecting himself from my check and his reaction was to lift his stick. I skated right into it.”

Besides Malkin's 15 points to start the year, Sidney Crosby has 18 to lead the league and nine points in the past four games. Linemate Patric Hornqvist, Nashville's former net crasher, has 14 points and points in four straight. Linemate Chris Kunitz has 13 points and points in three straight.

Very strange story here, but defenseman Keith Ballard may have had the mumps.

When the Wild talked with the St. Louis Blues a few weeks ago and discovered that the Blues had a number of players test positive for the mumps (originally the Blues thought it was a bacterial issue, but mumps is a virus), the team sent Ballard and Folin to Regions to undergo a mumps test.

After all, Ballard and Christian Folin had similar symptoms to the Blues and swollen jaws.

All of Folin’s tests were apparently negative even though he had the same exact symptoms as Ballard. Folin returned last game after missing five.

Ballard has not yet returned and as it turns out, Ballard had some positive tests for the mumps and some negative tests. So they’re still not exactly positive what Ballard had.

“I’ve asked my mom and she said I had the [mumps] vaccine, so it makes no sense,” Ballard said. “So that’s the hard part they’re (team docs) are trying to wrap their heads around. How would I have gotten it?”

Ballard has started to come around the team again, practiced yesterday and skated today. But he was pretty much quarantined from the rest of the team the past few weeks because the Wild wasn’t sure of everyone’s background in terms of whether they had the mumps vaccine.

“I had lots of flu symptoms – achy, fever, weak, zero energy,” Ballard said. “Some days, even if I went out to run an errand, I was wiped out. I’d come home and lay down for three hours. I’ve been going to bed around 6 or 8 p.m., sleep for 12 hours and wake up exhausted.

“It was awful.”

Ballard’s wife and kids haven’t gotten sick.

Ballard said he didn’t have much energy in practice yesterday. “My energy was, … I wanted to go to bed after.”

He said he wasn’t as winded in today’s skate and feels like he’s on the upswing.

He plans to be on the upcoming road trip to Ottawa, Montreal and New Jersey “unless I get sick again,” he said, only half-sarcastically.

It’s been a tough year-plus with the Wild for Ballard, the former Gophers national champ and Baudette native. He missed 30 games last year with two concussions, broken ribs and a sports hernia.

So frankly, if anyone was to catch the mumps, it’d naturally be Bad Luck Ballard.

“They kind of add up. It’s like, ‘Again,’” Ballard, 31, said. “I’ve been injured a bunch the last year. It doesn’t get me down to the point where I’m miserable, but it’s frustrating not being able to play, watching games because it looks so fun out there.”

It’s especially been frustrating because the Wild has already sustained injuries to Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Folin (illness), so there would have been an opportunity for Ballard to play consistently. Look at Nate Prosser, who has benefited from the injuries, has been a tremendous insurance policy and will play his eighth consecutive game tonight.

“But it’s a long year,” Ballard said. “Lots of games left. That’s why the mental part is so important. You can’t be so down and out. I’ve been around long enough to understand that for the team to go a long way, you need to use your depth. So right now I’m just trying to get my energy levels back so I can take part in a full practice and get better.”

As mentioned, big test for the Wild tonight. Staying out of the box would be a good key to success obviously, and Yeo said the Wild, which has been the best puck-possession and 5-on-5 team in the NHL, shouldn’t expect to “have the puck all night tonight.”

But he doesn’t want the Wild to change its game. The best way to defend is to make the Crosbys and Malkins spend long stretches 200 feet from their net. That’s how the Wild was so successful this season against Colorado’s stars, Steven Stamkos and last game against the prolific Benn-Spezza-Seguin line.

Thomas Vanek: 'I’m not proud of the decisions I’ve made'

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 1, 2014 - 1:01 PM

Wild forward Thomas Vanek says he no longer gambles, has never bet on hockey and is trying to move on after testifying in front of a grand jury in July as a witness in a federal illegal gambling and money laundering case in Rochester, N.Y.

“It’s something I have to deal with obviously,” Vanek said after the Wild’s morning skate Saturday. “I’m not proud of the decisions I’ve made, but as a person, I just have to move on from it and learn from your mistakes.”

Vanek was a government witness in a case against three men who were arrested in June for allegedly conducting an illegal gambling business out of the Marina Restaurant and Bar in Charlotte, N.Y., since Jan. 2012.

One of the men, Mark Ruff, pleaded guilty Thursday to illegal gambling and conspiracy to launder money and faces nine years in prison. In court, Ruff claimed a $230,000 check he apparently laundered came from a gambler who was paying off a debt.

That man’s defense attorney later volunteered to reporters that the check was a New York Islanders payroll check at the time Vanek played for them. Ruff told the Democrat & Chronicle that the check was part of more than $1 million this gambler, which he alluded was Vanek, owed.

Vanek’s agent, Steve Bartlett, acknowledged to the Star Tribune on Friday that the check was indeed endorsed over to the men by Vanek “to get them off his back.” Vanek was betting on football, Bartlett said.

“If you read it quickly or you listen to [the lawyer’s] comments, it almost alludes to the fact that Thomas Vanek was involved in money laundering, which is totally false,” Bartlett said. “He is not the subject of any investigation or criminal charges or anything whatsoever. He was a witness against this guy who was the bookmaker. He was the guy that wanted money, and Thomas paid it to him. Thomas wasn’t involved in any bookmaking activities.”

Vanek said Saturday that from his end, nothing has changed from when he was first approached by the government earlier this summer. The only thing now is details have emerged.

“I look at it as bad decisions,” Vanek said. “There’s no other way to sugarcoat it or make it seem what it’s not. I made some bad choices. I feel I’ve learned from them and have to move on.

“I feel I’ve done nothing wrong besides to my family and to myself, and I’ve got to move on from that.”

Asked if he had a gambling addiction, Vanek said, “It’s something I got caught up into.”

Asked if he still gambles, Vanek said, “No.”

In the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, the only mention of gambling comes in Exhibit 14.2: “Gambling on any NHL game is prohibited.” Vanek has not been accused of gambling on hockey and says he has “never” bet on hockey.

“This came up five months ago, so from there on out, it was something I knew was out there. Nothing changed for me now besides the details coming out,” Vanek said. “But as far as this being a distraction, no. I’m trying to move on from it. Once I come here, I focus on my job. The team has been great. Coach [Mike Yeo] and Mr. [Chuck] Fletcher have been very supportive. It’s been nice.”

Vanek said as far as he knows, he has no other responsibilities in this case.

“I was only there once. I was cooperating,” Vanek said. “I made a mistake.”

The NHL has indicated that unless it was determined Vanek was betting on hockey or faced criminal charges, it will not take any action against him. Vanek said he has not been contacted by anybody from the NHL throughout the entire process.

“We will obviously follow up on the ‘facts’ suggested in the article (referring to the reports out of Rochester) to satisfy ourselves that we are on top of the situation,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Star Tribune on Thursday.

Darcy Kuemper’s in goal vs. the Dallas Stars, who may be coming back with Kari Lehtonen.

Erik Haula will return, as will Christian Folin. Jon Blum has been recalled and will only play if Jonas Brodin can’t after warmups. Brodin told me in his mind, he’s playing (trainers are adding more protection to his glove). Ryan Carter is out with an upper body injury that Yeo doesn't think will be serious, but he won't be able to play his type of game, the coach said. Also out, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Cooke and a still-sick Keith Ballard.

Haula will center Stephane Veilleux and Justin Fontaine to start (Yeo likes Haula with Fontaine, and don't be surprised if like last game Yeo spots in a third forward instead of Veilleux to get them more ice time and limit Veilleux's), while Yeo will keep Vanek-Kyle Brodziak-Nino Niederreiter intact to start.

The Benn-Spezza-Seguin line is daunting.

"We have to be up to that task," Yeo said. "It's not going to be a one-man show tonight. It's not going to be just on Haula. There's going to be times where Mikko's line's out there, times when Granny's line's out there and you have to recognize who you're on the ice against and you have to make sure you attack when you have a chance to attack, but you have to manage the puck the right way, too."

Granlund didn't manage the puck well against San Jose.

Yeo said he may mix and match lines. Because Haula has been out, he wants him to get his feet under him first and then Yeo will see where the matchups take him.

I'll be on KFAN at 1:15 p.m.

Also, ....

I wrote my Sunday Insider about Jack Jablonski.

Tonight, during the Wild-Stars game, Jablonski will lead what will be dubbed as hockey’s largest stick tap when 18,000-plus fans receive thunder sticks so they can tap along with the 19-year-old affectionately known as Jabs.

A stick tap in hockey, as Jabs explained last week, “is when somebody gets injured – and we saw plenty stick taps in the Wild game Monday in New York. You tap your stick on the ice when that player gets up hoping that everything’s OK. It’s to show respect for people injured in a hockey game.”

Unfortunately, in Dec. 2011, Jablonski wasn’t able to get up after a check from behind while playing hockey as a sophomore for Benilde-St. Margaret’s. The injury left him a quadriplegic, but he has since become an inspiration to many.

Jablonski has devoted his life to helping others who are going through the same debilitating injury.

Jablonski’s Bel13ve in Miracles Foundation (www.bel13vefoundation.org) teamed up with the Wild and Minnesota Hockey to kick off #StickTap2Hope, a social initiative to raise awareness of the innovative recovery treatments already available for people living with spinal cord injuries. The hope is this becomes a global stick tap with supporters tweeting their photos and videos.

Jabs hopes to do this annually, and maybe this can take off like the Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness for ALS last summer.

More in Sunday's paper on Jablonski.

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