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.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
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DETROIT -- Trust everybody had a grand 'ol time with me out of the loop.
The players certainly did as I got chirped from every area of the visitors locker room this morning for going on "vacation" during the hockey season. Hey, every day is a vacation for me. Life is grand.
Guillaume Latendresse was particularly funny, noting how they beat Detroit with me gone and the moment I come back into the fold and the players see me lurking in the stands, they had one of the crummiest skates of the season.
Latendresse was referring to a morning skate where coach Mike Yeo wasn't a happy camper. Yeo twice huddled the players over and laid into them.
"We have plenty of time to correct it if we take the steps and do the things that we need to to make sure we're prepared the right way to play this game," Yeo told the media regarding a skate that lacked crispness. "We just needed to hear that we weren't good and that we need to be better, and that we're going to have to be pretty sharp to have a chance to win this hockey game tonight. We earned that win last game, but we're going to have to earn every inch that we take on this ice tonight. So the game doesn't start when the puck is dropped. The game starts in your preparation -- mentally and physically -- and it doesn't just happen when you show up at the rink for gametime. I can't wait to see how we play tonight."
Also, struggling Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky will start tonight's game at Detroit on the No. 2 power-play unit, Yeo said.
Yeo feels Zidlicky has been "forcing a lot of plays" and needs to get back to his bread and butter -- shooting the puck.
Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Justin Falk and Spurgeon all played more even-strength minutes than last game's pair of veterans Nick Schultz and Zidlicky.
Yeo said he was happy with Zidlicky's 5-on-5 play last game. "It looked like Zid was starting to come last game." He's been happy with his battle level (which is never a problem with Zidlicky), but he hasn't been happy with his execution this season (i.e. incredibly unbelievable turnovers).
Yeo said he will continue to experiment with lines even though he's reunited the first two lines tonight. He wasn't sure yet of tonight's "net front presence" guys on the No. 2 PP tonight.
Couple other things:
1. The Wild had its NHLPA meeting last night at the hotel with Executive Director Donald Fehr as he does his annual team-by-team tour around the NHL. Player rep Nick Schultz said a lot of the conversation stemmed around CBA talk and the plan going forward regarding the expiration of the agreement next September, rules and myriad other issues, including the use of painkillers and the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and some changes that could be made to the problem in light of the offseason deaths of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien (who had been in the program), and Wade Belak.
2. Regarding Brett Bulmer, I asked Yeo why all the charades the last few days. In other words, the team coming out and saying they told Bulmer not to worry or read anything into the scratch last game, how they wanted to play Brad Staubitz more, etc., etc. As Kent can attest, when Bulmer was scratched the other night and the Wild came up with a bunch of reasons why, I texted Kent and said, "I call," uh, baloney, and I guarantee they're evaluating the situation and Yeo was told to pull him out.
Yeo said: "We hadn't made up our mind yet, and we wanted to see how we did in the Detroit game (i.e. injuries, outcome). ... We're also not going to point him in the direction of you're probably going back just in case if he is going to get in the lineup next game, he has to have the right mind frame."
Basically, the Wild's saying Bulmer was going to be scratched the next few games if the team continued to be healthy and it refused to have a 19-year-old with promise relegated to the fourth line or press box. And with that third line playing well (Clutterbuck, Brodziak, Johnson) and the Wild healthy right now, fourth line or press box is where Bulmer was going to wind up.
Regarding the 10-game rule and the fact the Wild's claimed the past several weeks that it would actually be a benefit to have Bulmer burn a year of his deal with so many youngsters on the horizon potentially starting their 3-year contracts at the same time, the Wild claims the 10-game rule had nothing to do with this decision, that the timing was mere coincidence. In other words, he was sent down because he wasn't going to be making a regular contribution and the Wild didn't want to hinder his development (i.e. James Sheppard, Colton Gillies decisions of the past).
I don't know: I get deception if it's to get a competitive advantage. In this case, I don't know why the Wild couldn't simply say we're evaluating the situation and that's why we're pulling him from the lineup. To me, the scratch was an obvious sign of that.
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.
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