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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Greetings. Kent Youngblood here. I was at Wild practice while Mr. Russo worked on his Sunday notebook and took some much-deserved time off.
There were a couple items of note today.
First, winger Guillaume Latendresse was held out of practice with a sore hip. Coach Mike Yeo said it was maintenance day for Latendresse and he expects him to be back on the second line Saturday against Detroit. Cal Clutterbuck skated on the second line with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard in Latendresse's absence.
Second, Yeo said backup goalie Josh Harding will get the start against the Red Wings. This is a big deal for Harding, who will be making his first regular-season start of the 2009-10 season. Harding suffered a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game at St. Louis in September of 2010 and has been working his way back since. He talked about that a bit today and I'll have that for you tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the team had a spirited and rather long practice; several players stayed on the ice long after Yeo and the coaches left the rink to get extra work in.
That's about it for now. Russo will be at the game tomorrow.
Good Saturday morning to you.
Just a couple random thoughts on the Wild:
1. I went down to the Octagon camp yesterday and the first thing I noticed was a much slimmer-looking Guillaume Latendresse. In fact, he skated over to the glass to motion that he was skinnier. Or, he could have been motioning that I was skinnier, come to think of it. Well, one of the two. Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to catch up with Latendresse after the skate, and that article can be found at this link. In that link, you can also see the forward lines coach Mike Yeo plans to initially start with in training camp.
Also, here's a little video of Mike Yeo and myself at the Star Tribune booth at the State Fair yesterday. In the video, Yeo talks lines, which young kids have a chance to make the team and the importance of reading the newspaper.
2. Players report to training camp for physicals, photos and ph-itness testing Sept. 16. First day on the ice is two weeks from today -- Sept. 17. On Sept. 17 and Sept. 18, the Wild will open camp with scrimmages. Those two scrimmages from 10-11 a.m. at Xcel Energy Center will be free and open to the public, so plan now.
3. Wild players are slowly trickling into town. Eric Nystrom got here this week. Devin Setoguchi was planning to arrive yesterday. Dany Heatley will arrive in a few days. Mikko Koivu is on his way to New York to do a national NHL media circuit, so you should see some national stories with Koivu as a subject next week. Over at the Octagon camp yesterday were guys like shaggy-haired Nick Schultz (Schultz and Brent Burns still have a bet going on that dates back to last year's second half to see who can go the longest without a haircut), Cal Clutterbuck, Mike Lundin, Clayton Stoner, a jacked-up Casey Wellman, Brad Staubitz and Josh Harding.
4. If you want instantaneous Wild news this season, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib. More and more Wild players and prospects are showing up on Twitter. Here's a list: @dsetoguchi10, @enystrom23, @kylemedvec, @kassassination, @juicerfalk, @dkuemps35, @zackphillips7, @davejmcintyre, @mlucia1993.
Also, tremendous follow is Wild equipment manager Tony DaCosta at @styleswild. He's been posting awesome behind the scenes pictures of getting ready for training camp.
Also, finally, after years of secretly being on Twitter, Brent Burns is public and an absolute must follow. He's at @burnzie88. He's also guest blogging for the Gongshow web site, and his first entry can be read here. I talked to Andrew Brunette yesterday, told him about Burns' blog and his only reaction was, "Scary. He's the last person who should be blogging."
Also, Owen Nolan is on Twitter at @owennolan11. Lots of great NHL follows on Twitter, but those are two ex-Wild players I thought of off the top of my cloudy head.
OK, things will be ramping up here soon. You'll be reading more from the Mike Yeo sitdown in the coming days in articles.
As for now, have a great holiday weekend.
If you do, then you have two choices:
1. Come to the Minnesota State Fair this afternoon, where I'll be hosting a Q&A with new Wild coach Mike Yeo on the porch behind the Star Tribune booth at 3 p.m.
2. Leave your questions here. I'll pick the best ones, ask Yeo during the Q&A and blog later on.
The Wild has brought Darryl Sydor along for the ride from Houston.
Mike Yeo's assistant last year with the Aeros was hired Thursday to replace Dave Barr, who was dismissed with Todd Richards in April.
Assistant coach Darby Hendrickson was also retained, as well as Rick Wilson, who used to coach Sydor in Dallas, and goalie coach Bob Mason.
GM Chuck Fletcher announced earlier this month that Wilson and Mason would be back.
The Wild has not yet hired a video coach, and it is still to be determined whether strength coach Chris Pietrzak-Wegner is retained. His contract ends today, but I believe he's been extended to work the development camp July 11-17.
After the 2009-10 season, Sydor, 39, retired after 18 seasons in the NHL playing for Los Angeles, Dallas, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The longtime, well-respected defenseman won Stanley Cups with the Stars and the Lightning. He was actually coached by Yeo in Pittsburgh, and Aeros players, especially their defensemen, raved about him last season during Houston's run to the Calder Cup Finals.
Wilson and Sydor were both defensemen, so we'll see how the bench works. But Fletcher said that wouldn't be a big issue a few weeks ago when asked if he and Yeo would be looking for a former forward as an assistant. In fact, several teams have two defensemen on their bench as assistants, and I'm fairly sure, former forward Mario Tremblay used to change the Wild's defense -- not former defenseman Mike Ramsey.
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