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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Marco Scandella has NHL hearing; Ballard update

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: December 10, 2014 - 2:43 PM

TWO UPDATES:

First, defenseman Keith Ballard has been released from Regions Hospital. He suffered multiple facial fractures and a concussion when hit by Matt Martin of the Islanders last night. Doctors will wait until the swelling subsides before determining if surgery is necessary.

Second, defenseman Marco Scandella has a phone hearing tonight with the NHL following his second illegal check to the head penalty in 10 days.

Scandella caught Brock Nelson in the head late in last night's 5-4 win over the Islanders. On Nov. 29, Scandella was assessed an illegal check to T.J. Oshie's head and fined without a hearing.

Clearly, Scandella hates former Warroad High players that went to the University of North Dakota and is from Roseau, not Montreal. wink

Two penalties like this so close together was an all but guaranteed league discipline. Checks to the head usually result in two-game suspensions on a first offense. We shall see. A decision will be made tonight by the NHL, I am told.

Scandella flew with the Wild to San Jose, which has a storm of the century coming tomorrow, by the way. I have some serious travel problems today due to weather in the Bay Area, so if I don't make practice, I'll update the blog later after I get availability with players and coach Mike Yeo at the team hotel in San Jose -- assuming I make it out there.

The Wild has recalled Justin Falk to replace Ballard. 

I am told no discipline for Martin. I think it was a needless, reckless hit, but often in this case, when a player turns to dodge a check the way Ballard did, the onus is now on him and that turn at last second is viewed as contributing to the incident and injury. I still feel it was a run and late, but the fact Martin looks to escape discipline doesn't surprise me. The league, which has the technology that I don't, says the hit was .5 seconds after Ballard gave up the puck. .7 or more is considered late, as I wrote in last month's Department of Player Safety feature here. It's also not considered a charge, I'm told, because he comes off the ice after contact and rides up Ballard.

Wild responds to Keith Ballard injury with a big comeback win over the Islanders

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 10, 2014 - 12:18 AM

As of now, there’s no further update on defenseman Keith Ballard beyond the team’s original report that Ballard was conscious when he left the arena via ambulance tonight and that he was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and observation.

Scary scene on the ice here tonight when Ballard’s head was driven into the red dasher on top of the boards at the visiting bench in the second period. Ballard was bleeding from the face (Nate Prosser said there was blood on the dasher) and players said Ballard initially looked unconscious and was convulsing.

 

Athletic therapist quickly turned Ballard on his side to open up his airway and doctors surrounded him and called quickly for paramedics. After a few minutes, Ballard was assisted to his feet and helped slowly off the ice.

The Wild responded, storming back from a 3-0 deficit en route to a 5-4 win. Ironically, the Islanders did the exact same thing by the exact score to the Wild in this very arena last December. Remember, that was the loss most everybody thought could result in a housecleaning the next day. It never happened and the Wild soon would turn around its season.

Tonight, the Wild rallied from three goals down to win in regulation for the first time in franchise history. It was the first time the Wild rallied from three goals down to win at home since (overtime) since Oct. 6, 2009, vs. Anaheim.

First, the hit. I’ve watched it a dozen times and every time I watch it, I think it was more and more needless by Matt Martin. Whether Ballard was dodging the check or not, it was an absolutely needless hit, plain and simple, and came well after Ballard dumped the puck into the corner. Just look at the replay. There is nobody else in the screen but Ballard and Martin because the puck was long gone.

Yes, Ballard turned to avoid the check, but it was Martin that drove Ballard recklessly into the red dasher in my opinion.

“It was really scary,” Erik Haula said. “I saw [Martin] had a lot of speed going into that hit. Keith’s just trying to get the puck in deep. Their bench was yelling that he’s dodging, but I don’t think it matters. If you come in with that much speed, he can’t protect himself when he’s probably on one leg trying to get the puck in. I just don’t understand. I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Thomas Vanek, a former Islander and teammate of Martin said, “We’ve showed before that we don’t give up and we’re resilient, and then obviously with what happened to Keith, it was all pretty sickening to us. We took it in a positive way and took the emotion in a good way and started playing real hard and it was a great comeback win for us.

“I was actually on the forecheck and the next thing I know he was in a lot of pain obviously. It’s something I don’t wish upon anyone. Obviously I played for those guys and I don’t think Martin’s a dirty player and [he] wasn’t penalized, but from what I heard of it, to me, it’s a dumb decision. Again, I didn’t see it. I just heard about it. The puck’s in the corner and you finish your hit. I heard it wasn’t dirty, but still, we’re all playing this game because we love it and we shouldn’t hurt each other, but I’m sure it wasn’t his intentions. It was sickening, but we took the emotions the right way and deserved to win and we played hard for him.”

I’m sure I’ll get more into this as we go along, but as the Wild opens a three-game road trip at San Jose on Thursday, the Wild will obviously be without Ballard. We’ll see if it’s also without Marco Scandella. Late in tonight’s game, he was given a minor for illegal check to Brock Nelson’s head. On Nov. 29, he also got an illegal check to T.J. Oshie’s head and was fined, so we’ll see what the league says about two in 10 days.

The Wild scratched Christian Folin, so he’ll play Thursday. If Scandella is in trouble, the Wild would either have to play Stu Bickel on the blue line or call up a defenseman like Justin Falk, Jon Blum or Matt Dumba.

The Wild, for a third time in five home games, came out of the gate awful. For the third time in five home games and second in a row, it fell behind at least 3-0 (I say at least because it was 4-0 vs. L.A.).

“We were able to collect ourselves after the first period,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I thought we came out with much better focus, much better mindset. It’s hard to pinpoint why we’ve started two games like this but the feeling is, I don’t know if we’re apprehensive or waiting for the next bad thing to happen instead of going and getting it.

“What I appreciate is when you mention that to the group and use the words pride and character, we know we have too much pride and character to allow that to continue, and I thought we showed that the rest of the game.”

After the Ballard incident, Mikael Granlund stepped up on Kyle Okposo and drew a retaliatory slash. Jason Pominville deflected Ryan Suter’s shot (three assists for Suter in his first game back from the mumps) to make it 3-1.

Then Kyle Brodziak fought Martin in response to the Ballard hit. Brodziak took a beating but got points from everybody in the locker room.

“When it’s right in front of your bench (the Ballard injury) and you see what’s out there and then you also see what Kyle did after, backing up his teammates, I think that was the turning point for our hockey club tonight and that’s something that’s great to see when you’re defending one another.”

Yeo said, “There were a number of guys that were engaged physically and emotionally after that point. I thought that we came out really well to start out the second period, but I thought that took us to a different level. I’m really hoping this is something we can build off as a team. When you see guys band together like that, that’s what we need going forward.”

The Wild controlled the rest of the period but couldn’t buy another goal. Then on the Islanders only shot of the period, Josh Bailey scored on a breakaway. That should have been the dagger, but Erik Haula said everybody went back to the locker room, collected themselves and internally (not out loud) all got a “win one for Bally attitude.”

Koivu took Jason Zucker’s pass, stepped in front of the net, fired and scored. Then, Haula deflected a pass off Thomas Hickey’s skate and in. Then, 45 seconds later, Zach Parise shot and Thomas Vanek crashed the net and tied the game. Finally, with 4:33 left, Nino Niederreiter jammed away at a Vanek rebound and scored the eventual winner and his team-leading 12th goal on his third stab at the puck and from his belly.

Niederreiter said, “Obviously you never want to see something like that happen to your teammates or in general in the league and it obviously was a scary moment at the time, but I felt like we carried it in a positive way and made sure we don’t focus about what’s going on with Ballard, which obviously was scary, but at the same time we gave everything to try to get better.

“Such a great comeback. When Haulzy got the tying goal, we were just buzzing and trying to get the next one before regulation ends, and that’s what happened and obviously we’re very happy about it.”

Yeo said he will provide a Ballard update Wednesday. The team leaves in the morning and practices in San Jose. I’ll come to you afterward. Apparently there’s some crazy storm coming to the Bay Area on Thursday, so wish us all luck.

I’ve been tweeted by several people and haven’t caught up on what this thing will entail.

Obviously, the Wild shouldn’t need a Ballard injury to make them angry and wake them up.

“You can draw up x’s and o’s, skill is no question a big part of the game, but passion and emotion has to be there for us, no question,” Yeo said. “We have to make sure that we find a way to bring that. We shouldn’t have to have something like that to bring it out of us. That’s whe we’re at our best, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s part of our identity. We need to bring that every game.”

On Suter, who was great, “Nice to ease him into it. 29 minutes,” Yeo said sarcastically. “I mean, I thought that as the game wore on he was starting to find his game more and more. We knew it was going to be tough for him to get it going 100 percent right from the start…from penalty kills to power play to every aspect of his game, he just kept getting stronger and showed you how important he is to us.”

On Vanek’s goal and assist and Niederreiter responding after a few poor games, Yeo said, “Yeah, I’m very happy for those guys whether it’s against a former team or not. We want to get to a point where everybody is feeling good about their game and that’s been difficult to make happen. I think everybody contributed to this win tonight ,and that’s what I think makes us a great team. We have good players, but we want to be a great team. In order for that to happen we need different guys stepping up, but every guy going out and playing the same way. For the last two periods we had that.

“You want to win, and you get wrapped up in the score, but we have to make sure that our game is going. If our game is going and everybody is firing on all cylinders then the score will take care of itself. The biggest thing to me more than anything…and obviously I’m ecstatic that we won – but we needed to respond. We needed to respond after that first period, and I was very pleased with the way we were responding, and it’s good for the players to get rewarded for it.”

Koivu was great. Won 22 of 30 faceoffs to go with his goal and assist. He has won 20-plus draws three times this year and in two games in a row. In fact, he has done this six times in his career and is the only Wild player in history to win 20-plus draws in a game.

On the comeback, Koivu said, “Well, you don’t want to be in that situation, but you never know what’s going to happen or what to expect. I think we have to learn from that, as well. For us, it was a very emotional night. At the end a great feeling, but still you don’t want to see one of your teammates going down like that. So, hopefully Keith is well and we’ll move on and have him back as soon as possible.”

Lastly, because of what happened to Ballard, I had to rewrite my notebook on the fly and this obviously couldn’t see the light of day. But I thought you would find this interesting. The quotes were obviously from before the game. I will talk to you from San Jose on Wednesday and will report from the plane if Martin or Scandella face hearings.

By MICHAEL RUSSO

mrusso@startribune.com

If you’re a Wild fan or somebody who has watched Keith Ballard play throughout his University of Minnesota and 10-year NHL career, the second Corey Perry tried to squeeze between Ballard and the boards last Friday, you knew what was coming.

Ballard lowered his left hip and sandwiched the Anaheim Ducks star. The difference between this hip check and so many of Ballard’s others is Perry sustained a sprained knee and will miss up to a month.

Ballard said that’s “very rare” and he’s not trying to hurt anybody with the hip check, which is nearly extinct in today’s NHL.

“I could have easily went in and put my hand up and not even hit him and let him dump it in, but what if he beats me back to the net and gets a goal?” Ballard said. “He’s a 50-goal scorer.”

On Ballard’s next shift, the defenseman fought Nate Thompson, uncomfortable because he knows Thompson. Thompson, who lives in Minnesota because he’s married to Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart’s sister, and Ballard work out and skate together in the offseason.

“He just looked at me and said, ‘Bally, we’ve got to do it,’ and I said, ‘Of course, I understand.’ It’s either him or Tim Jackman,” Ballard said, laughing, regarding the Ducks’ other tough guy who is coincidentally another friend and Minnesota resident. “That’s part of it, although squaring off was a little awkward because I don’t generally fight my friends.

“I’ve done the hip check lots of times and I end up getting into lots of fights about it.”

Even though the maneuver is legal, no player likes to be nailed by one. The perception is you’re going after an opponent’s knees. Perry felt Ballard got him low, which arguably could have been penalized as clipping.

Ballard doesn’t remember learning the hip check, only that he did it a lot in Phoenix to stand out.  Gophers assistant coach Mike Guentzel recalls Ballard deploying the hip check a lot in college.

“Curt Giles was a great hip checker, so maybe Bally remembers him doing it with the North Stars,” Guentzel said. “Bally was always good at that and always had a knack for it. What makes Bally so good is how he goes from upright to low so quick, so it just surprises people and they get mad. But you’ve got to do what you’re good at.”

Eight Minnesotans on one sheet of ice tonight when the Wild faces the Islanders

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: December 9, 2014 - 12:26 PM

Wild and New York Islanders tonight at Xcel Energy Center as Minnesota looks to wrap up a four-game homestand (1-1-1) on a positive note against the NHL’s wins leader with 19.

Today at 12:30 p.m. CT, I will be doing a live podcast with Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan at www.souhanunfiltered.com. It will also be archived after the fact.

Niklas Backstrom in goal for the Wild tonight. Jaroslav Halak for the Islanders.

Charlie Coyle (stomach bug) skated today and will play tonight. Stu Bickel and Christian Folin look to be the Wild scratches.

Ryan Suter (mumps) returned after two games out.

“I don’t know how more people haven’t gotten it honestly with the amount of time we’re together,” said Zach Parise, who sounds like he’s coming down with something (“I’m just congested”).

Coach Mike Yeo is excited to get Suter back, although he said, “I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to be where he was before he caught this.”

Eight Minnesotans are expected to play in tonight’s game: Parise, Keith Ballard, Nate Prosser and Ryan Carter vs. Kyle Okposo, Brock Nelson, Nick Leddy and Anders Lee.

That’s a lot of “Fargo” accents.

“That’s pretty impressive,” Parise said of all the Minnesotans on one sheet of ice. “That says a lot about the development here. That’s a lot of guys from one place in one NHL game.”

And this doesn’t even include honorary Minnesotans Erik Haula and Thomas Vanek. :)

Again, Vanek skates on a line with Mikael Granlund and Parise tonight as Yeo tries to get Vanek’s game going. Vanek knows this is his chance.

“I’m not expecting any miracles tonight, and I know it’s not the other players I have played with,” Vanek said. “I need to be better. I know that.”

Lee, the former Edina star and Notre Dame standout, had to be worried he would miss his first game at Minnesota. He got a last-second NHL hearing yesterday for elbowing St. Louis defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. He ended up being fined $2,286 and will play tonight. I wrote about Lee when the Wild played at Long Island in March.

The kid has 40 goals in 104 combined NHL and AHL games.

Okposo is tied with John Tavares for first in scoring with 24 points. Nelson leads with 12 goals. Leddy is second among Isles defensemen with 13 points and leads with plus-10.

Their Minnesotans are good, and I got good stuff today from Okposo, Lee and Leddy. Lee, playing his first game at the X, has his parents, grandparents, one of his sisters and a ton of cousins coming tonight.

I learned today: You can’t spell Islanders without Anders.

“I actually saw that on a poster once,” Lee said, laughing.

Leddy is excited about his trade to Long Island.

“I got some more responsibility, which is nice. Really nice,” he said.

Nino Niederreiter vs. Cal Clutterbuck again tonight. Niederreiter had a goal and two assists in two games against the Islanders last year, Clutterbuck one goal in two games. You can hear from Clutterbuck in tomorrow’s paper. Clutterbuck said it’s a little less odd playing the Wild, that most the nostalgia has worn off.

Niederreiter leads the Wild with 11 goals but is scoreless in the past three games and was minus-3 last game.

Yeo said like all young kids, the Wild’s still trying to get him to be

“The consistency is still trying to bring it out of him. He’s starting to figure out what type of player he needs to be

Suter returning from the mumps; Harding sidelined; Coyle sick; Backstrom starting vs. "my" Islanders

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: December 8, 2014 - 3:42 PM

Afternoon from Minneapolis.

Nino Niederreiter, Jared Spurgeon and the Wild faces (my!!!) New York Islanders, who boast a lineup that includes John Tavares, Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Cal Clutterbuck and (who else????) NICK LEDDY, Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Against one of the top teams in the East (Isles lead the league with 19 wins), the Wild looks to wrap up a pedestrian 1-1-1 homestand on a good note before heading out on a three-game road trip to San Jose, Glendale (Ariz.) and Chicago.

The Islanders used to be my favorite team as a kid. Those allegiances are long gone, but I always get a little nostalgic when the Isles come to town and especially during my annual trip to Long Island. Sadly in March, I will be covering my final game at Nassau Coliseum because the team moves into its new digs in Brooklyn next season.

It will be emotional.

I’m also excited that Hall of Fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald will be in town Tuesday to come out of retirement (so to speak; he fills in every now and then on Islanders and Panthers broadcasts). The great Howie Rose (infamous for his “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau!!!! call when the Rangers beat the Devils in OT to advance to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final) has the game off, so Jiggs will swoop into Minnesota, where he has family, to work with Butch Goring, the best trade deadline player acquisition EVER (in the Billy Harris/Dave Lewis trade in 1980 prior to the first of four straight Isles Cups).

I became friends with Jiggs when he called Panthers games on radio full-time back when I covered them in the latter part of my Fla. career at the Sun-Sentinel. That was real cool because I grew up watching Jiggs do Islanders games on the former SportsChannel with Ed Westfall. In fact, the neatest part of covering the Panthers when I was a young pup? As an old Islanders fan, imagine covering a Florida organization that had Bill Torrey as its President, Billy Smith as its goalie coach, Denis Potvin as its TV color analyst and Duane Sutter as assistant coach (and eventual head coach). Was pretty cool starting out as a hockey writer with so many people I rooted for as a kid around.

OK, onto the Wild.

1. Captain Mikko Koivu, who missed Saturday’s practice with what was described as a very minor strain, practiced today, as did defenseman Ryan Suter, who missed the past two games with the mumps. He is expected to return vs. the Isles (more on this below)

Yeo didn’t divulge yet which defenseman (Nate Prosser, Keith Ballard or Christian Folin will come out of the lineup.

Niklas Backstrom will be in net (more on this below).

Charlie Coyle missed practice today because he’s sick.

“I was told it is definitely … not… the mumps,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s a stomach ailment. We’ll see where he’s at [Tuesday].”

If Coyle is questionable, the Wild will either have to play Stu Bickel at wing or call up a forward from Iowa later today or in the morning. Yeo may want Bickel playing against a tough Isles team.

Typically, we’ll get word after 4 p.m. CT because the salary cap is computed daily. The Baby Wild plays at Charlotte tonight.

Matt Cooke is still not practicing due to the hip flexor. Eighteen games out and counting now. Wild misses him badly.

2. Speaking of Charlotte, I updated the top of the last blog that goalie Josh Harding left Saturday’s game after two periods due to dehydration.

It was so serious, he was taken to the hospital and remained hospitalized until he was released late Sunday. Multiple sources say this is related to his multiple sclerosis. Harding is listed day-to-day with dehydration, but this will likely be one of those indefinite day-to-day’s. It’s very unlikely he will play another game for Iowa until this is figured out.

Iowa has recalled Johan Gustafsson from ECHL Alaska to back up John Curry tonight in Charlotte and the Wild was making arrangements on getting Harding back to Minnesota.

So, wish Harding well.

3. From a Wild perspective, Harding is out of the picture for the time being, meaning Darcy Kuemper and Backstrom are the two goalies … period. Somebody suggested to me that perhaps the Wild swoops in on Anaheim and signs Ilya Bryzgalov as insurance (technically Bryzgalov is on a tryout with the Ducks and still a free agent), but I’d think that is improbable.

Backstrom, who is 3-2-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in nine appearances, gets the start vs. the Isles.

“We feel that’s what the team needs right now and part of that is [Backstrom] deserves to start,” Yeo said.

There’s no doubt the Wild would love Backstrom to get in the net and play a string of good games to 1) help the team and 2) give Kuemper some internal competition.

Yeo alluded to this the other day, but it does seem the second Kuemper hit the 14-game threshold that mean he required waivers to get to Iowa, his game has been inconsistent.

Columnist Chip Scoggins is writing about the Wild goalie situation for Tuesday’s paper. It certainly seems like the Wild’s biggest concern right now. The Anaheim game really showed that. The Wild gave up about eight scoring chances in the game and Kuemper was beaten cleanly on five of them (on only 18 shots).

Yeo said, “That’s the struggles of any young goalie. We know that he has the technical ability, we know that he has the athletic ability, we know that he’s a great kid and he’s going to put the work in, but the reason why it takes goalies a little longer is because of the mental aspect of it, how you prepare, how you find consistency in your game.”

Backstrom doesn’t look like the same goalie as the past few years. He just looks more confident and healthier in net because he is healthy. He does his rehab work daily and it’s to the point he’s not thinking about being in pain on the ice.

Tuesday’s game will be Backstrom’s 400th of his Wild career. He is the winningest goalie in Wild history and owns 25 individual goalie records.

He’s not used to being a backup but says, “You have to find a way to be there for the guys. You can’t hide behind excuses even if it’s something you’re not used to. You just have to find a way.”

Kuemper’s big issue seems like he lets goals affect him instead of forgetting about it and moving on. I asked Backstrom his perspective on Kuemper as a veteran: “For everyone, even young and older, you learn every day. You learn about yourself, you learn about the game. For sure you want to stop every puck, but it’s a big thing for a goalie, you have to realize if you do everything right, and they score, you can’t let that bother you. You hate to get scored on but you have to forget it and move on and focus on the next shot. Even if you’re my age, I think if you talk to every goalie, you work every day just to be in the moment and not look behind you. You can’t fix what happened in the past. You have to learn from it and move on. I don’t know, maybe when you retire, you realize you learned it. But before that, for a goalie, for sure a lot of the game is physical, but it’s mentally, too. You have to be comfortable about there. You can’t be afraid of letting in goals and making mistakes because it’s going to happen. It’s part of the game.”

Kuemper talked to Chip today and said he has had some bad luck recently at home, but his body of work is still good.

“I’m definitely learning,” Kuemper told Scoggins. “It’s been a little bit tough with new D-men every night it seems with the disease going through. Not that that’s an excuse. But the mumps makes it tough. But I’m kind of learning as I’m going. Obviously you want to be as consistent as you can. I don’t feel like I’m going in there one night feeling awesome and one night fighting the puck. Sometimes there’s some puck luck as well. I’ve been consistent at every level and I know it will come here.”

On the so called meltdowns, Kuemper said, “I think it’s just coincidental. The only game that I’d say really went awry was that New York game. I think that kind of put some thoughts into peoples’ heads. So when two goals happen, then all of a sudden, it’s, ‘Oh no. It’s happening again.’ But really it’s just situational.”

Check out Chip’s column Tuesday.

4. I’ll be writing about Suter, who is coming back from the mumps.

“I’m glad it’s out of my system,” he said. “There’s a few days there where you really can’t do anything. It’s a miserable virus and I’m glad it’s out of me. It was miserable. I’m fortunate we only played a few games there, a few off days. So that helped. My version was pretty bad.”

Suter was hoping to return Friday against Anaheim, but at the morning skate, he was dizzy and nauseous. Saturday, the Wild had a very tough practice and Suter looked exhausted afterward. He said he felt much better after today’s practice.

Suter said he woke up Sunday morning with one of the symptoms bigtime. He thought the worst (i.e. cancer), but after some ultrasounds and bloodwork, it was confirmed he had the mumps.

“I was just locked in the room,” he said. “My wife was great. She’d knock on the door, leave the food outside the door and I’d go and get it. She’s an angel.”

Suter has two kids and another on the way, so he quarantined himself from his pregnant wife, Becky, and kids.

He never got the swollen facial glands, but it did hurt and “you could feel the heat coming off the virus,” Suter said as he touched his face.

Suter admitted, “As I was laying in bed, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Why didn’t I get the booster?’” he said, laughing.

Teammates all got mumps boosters in mid-November. He chose not to because, “That’s the thing, I probably wash my hands more than anybody. I go out of my way to make sure I’m a clean guy. So for me to get it, I always tell these guys, ‘You’ve got to be mentally strong and you’ll never get sick.’ So they’re all giving me a hard time, ‘What were you thinking while you were laying in bed sick?’”

“I’m glad it’s over.”

So is Yeo. If you look at the goals against vs. Anaheim, you know Suter would have been on the ice for a lot of those hairy moments.

“It’s hard to really quantify what he means to our team,” Yeo said. “You’re talking about half the game first of all and you’re talking about every key situation against every key player. I thought we did OK against Montreal without him, but certainly his presence was missed last game against a bigger, heavier puck possession team. That’s where he comes into play. He makes it so difficult for them to establish that type of game because of his execution, the way he’s able to break their pressure, but then if they do get set up and they do have control, he’s so sneaky strong, he’s so good with his stick and is in such good position that he helps us defend much quicker.”

5. So, we’re in the press scrum today when I happen to glance at Twitter and see that Ottawa coach Paul MacLean, who had been saying some weird, outspoken comments after games and practices lately, was fired.

I always make fun of Yeo’s poker face to you. Well, now I have to fess up. Apparently I showed pocket aces to Yeo. The coach looked at me and my wide-open eyes and interrupted the press scrum with a, "What do you got?”

I told him the news, and his eyes turned stunned, too, especially because the Sens rallied from 3-0 down to beat Vancouver in overtime yesterday.

Yeo then had the perfect exit to his press scrum. He put his hands on his head and walked away: “Thanks for the constant reminders!”

It was a funny ending to the practice availability.

Lastly, here's a TSN update on expansion talk at the Board of Gov's meetings in Boca Raton, my old hometown. I even make a cameo in Bob McKenzie's story.

Talk to you Tuesday.

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