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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Rachel B here, checking in while Russo gets his technological problems solved.
In this compressed season, Wild coach Mike Yeo said it will be particularly challenging to balance practice time with rest. Monday, he gave Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter a respite from the team's workout, but he noted it was important for the Wild to get back on the ice and address some of the shortcomings that hurt it in last weekend's 0-2 road trip.
Zach Parise, who had four goals and an assist in a 5-3 loss at Detroit and a 5-4 overtime loss at St. Louis, sounded just a little exasperated. The Wild was undone by ill-advised penalties, defensive lapses and a lack of attention to details such as line changes in St. Louis. He lauded the Blues' relentlessness and said the Wild would do well to take notes, as they seek to get back over .500 in Tuesday's game against Columbus at Xcel Energy Center.
"It's not a systems thing,'' he said. "It's a willingness to keep doing the right things over and over again. It's good for us to see it on video and watch a team like St. Louis. They play the right way. They kept making our D go back and retrieve pucks all night. They made it hard on our D and hard on our team. It's good for us to see them doing it and see how well it works.
"It's more important for us to not allow ourselves to keep making the same mistakes over and over again, especially in a shorter season. We have to recognize what we're doing wrong, what's not working, and start doing things on a more consistent basis. We haven't seen that yet. It's a challenge for us to start doing that.''
Despite the performance of his line--which has accounted for 10 of the team's 13 goals--Parise said that if the Wild is not winning, it means he and linemates Koivu and Dany Heatley can do more. Yeo said he will not break up that group, but he is contemplating some tinkering with the other lines to try and find a spark.
Koivu said he is not concerned with the lack of scoring from other lines. "As long as we're getting chances, it's going to start going in,'' he said. "We're getting chances, and that's a good thing. Sometimes, it's not easy to get that first one ... I'm sure it will come.
"System-wise, we can do a better job. I know it well, but it's only been two weeks for some of the guys. Also, the mindset. It doesn't matter what happens, you have to keep playing the way we want and believe it's going to bring success for us. ... We have to earn it. We're on our way there.''
Yeo also was emphasizing the positive. He pointed out the good things he saw in the loss to the Blues and said the biggest problem was that he didn't see those things sustained throughout the game. He pointed to his top line as an example that the rest of the team should follow, to see how to play the right way on every shift.
He liked the team's defensive intensity, he said, and thinks the second, third and fourth lines have gotten some good scoring chances but need to generate more. "We don't need to blow it all up here,'' he said. "We don't need to panic, because there are opportunities there that are just not going in. We scored four goals (against the Blues). That's enough to win a hockey game. There were too many other things taking place (to cause the loss).''
Yeo also said he was happy with Marco Scandella's play at St. Louis in his first game since being recalled from Houston, where he had just rejoined the lineup Friday after sitting out five weeks with a groin injury. He also stood up for Suter, who is a team-worst -5. The defenseman, he said, is putting a lot of pressure on himself, and Yeo said he is answering constant questions about Suter's struggles.
"We're asking so much of him,'' said Yeo, who credited Suter with playing "a couple of really strong games'' on the road trip. "He's coming to a new team and a new system. He's done so many good things, yet there's still talk about some of the bad things that have happened for him. A lot of them, most of them, almost all of them are out of his control. With a guy like that, let's be fair with our expectations.
"It's not going to happen that a defenseman is on the ice and the other team is never going to score. That stuff's going to happen. What's important is that his game has been getting better every game. What's important is what he adds to our team.''
Everyone is healthy other than defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who still is coping with a bone bruise in his foot. He tried to practice Monday but didn't last long. "Possibly,'' Yeo said when asked if Spurgeon could play Tuesday. "He came out and tried (to practice), but it wasn't great, so I'm not sure.''
SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE
Marco Scandella has indeed been recalled by the Wild;
Trying to find out if Jared Spurgeon (foot) has been placed on injured reserve, meaning at the very minimum, he cannot play vs. Columbus at home on Tuesday, OR if Matt Dumba is being returned to Red Deer. He is not skating today but still here.
But Scandella has to be squeezed onto the roster by one of those moves. Matt Cullen is on the ice.
The Houston Aeros won its third consecutive game tonight with a 5-2 pounding of Grand Rapids on the road. It was their second straight night winning in that building.
Charlie Coyle scored twice, Johan Larsson, Nick Palmieri and David McIntyre once, Chay Genoway and Justin Fontaine had two assists apiece and Darcy Kuemper made 33 saves. Jason Zucker had an assist and now deservedly heads to Providence for the AHL All-Star Game.
The one player nowhere to be found in tonight's Houston lineup? Defenseman Marco Scandella.
My gut says he was scratched because he is on his way to join the Wild here in St. Louis.
First, he returned in Friday's 1-0 win from a five-week groin injury and by all accounts played well with a plus-1 and three shots.
Second, the entire Minnesota Wild front office is somehow missing in action tonight when it comes to responding to my incessant queries.
The Wild's at 23 players, so the only way to fit Scandella onto the roster is to: 1) Place Jared Spurgeon (foot) on injured reserve retroactive to last Tuesday (that would mean he would have to miss Tuesday's game against Columbus as well); 2) return Matt Dumba to Western Hockey League Red Deer, which after being scratched in four consecutive games to start the season, is clearly going to happen at some point; 3) Place Matt Cullen on injured reserve, which is unlikely because he would have to miss a week, coach Mike Yeo says he simply got practice off Saturday and expects him to play against St. Louis and because the Wild didn't call up a forward.
Regardless, my money is on Scandella suddenly making an appearance here in St. Louis on Sunday morning.
Who's he play for if he arrives? My guess is Nate Prosser. It's obviously not for Ryan Suter, Tom Gilbert or Jonas Brodin. Clayton Stoner was one of the Wild's best defensemen the first 3 games and after Saturday's practice, Yeo said he feels Justin Falk has played some good hockey and he hasn't been happy with Prosser's past two games.
We shall see.
The Blues won 4-3 at Dallas this evening. Niklas Backstrom vs. Brian Elliott in St. Louis' sixth game in nine nights.
Talk to you Sunday.
Could be a false alarm with this original blog. The Wild still is expected to open the 48-game regular season Jan. 19, but it may not be at home.
That will be a big disappointment to a lot of fans because Jan. 19 is Hockey Day Minnesota, but there is a chance now the Wild opens on the road. The schedule is still being developed and should be released once the players ratify the deal, which should be Saturday. But the Wild could very well open on the road Jan. 19 and at home Jan. 20.
The opponent may still be Colorado both nights.
The Wild will open the 48-game regular season Jan. 19 at home against the Colorado Avalanche, sources tell me.
Training camp will open Sunday -- one day after the players are expected to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement.
The owners are expected to ratify the new CBA tomorrow in New York. The players will then conduct a vote that should last until Saturday. I did talk to the NHLPA today about why the vote is taking so long, and they explained that they have 750 members and it's incumbent on them to educate the players as to exactly what they're signing. So they will talk to players both individually and as teams.
They want to make sure that players understand every facet of the CBA and don't feel rushed when they're signing an agreement that will be binding for the next maybe 10 years.
--The NHL refs and linesmen will have a two-day mini-camp in Toronto on Jan. 16-17.
--As I put on the blog the other day, the 48-game schedule will be divided as five games vs. two teams in a division, four games vs. two teams in a division (18 games) and three games vs. the other 10 teams in one's conference (30 games).
--Mikael Granlund and Torrey Mitchell arrived at the Wild's skate today. Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Zenon Konopka are expected there tomorrow, and that would be the full allotment of players.
Granlund looked very good and chatted with the media after. You can a story I wrote on him in Wednesday's newspaper. Some funny stuff in there from HIFK part-owner Niklas Backstrom, Granlund's former "boss."
-- On defenseman Matt Dumba, 18, being invited to camp, assistant GM Brent Flahr said, "It'll be good experience for him. He can get to know us and players and we can evaluate him as well. At the same time, he's coming here to show well for himself. Obviously the odds are probably against him, but at the same time knowing him and his mentality, he's coming here to hopefully show well and make something happen. If not, overall it'll be good experience for hm and he can go back to junior and go from there."
-- If you didn't join my live chat today, here is a replay and I plan to do another one this week or early next week because I had to leave so many questions unanswered due to time.
-- Also, if you didn't read, please check out my Don Lucia-Mario Lucia father-son story today. Gophers-Notre Dame tonight at Mariucci, and I'll be covering.
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