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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The Wild announced tonight that left wing Zach Parise, the team's leading scorer, is expected to miss between two to three weeks with a left foot contusion.
Both Parise and General Manager Chuck Fletcher said though that they actually believed they "dodged a bullet" by the news.
"I think we did dodge a little bit of a bullet with not having it broken or fractured or needing to get a surgery or anything on it," said Parise, who said he is wearing a walking boot. "If there’s any somewhat good news, that would be it."
Said Fletcher: "I think we were expecting four to six weeks, so to me, it’s disappointing to lose Zach for any amount of time, but when you look at the number of foot injuries that you see, it very easily could have been the four-to-six week scenario, and then you're talking 15 or 20 games. As crazy at it sounds, we're actually fairly pleased with the doctor's opinion today."
Parise was nailed by Alex Steen's one-timer on a late first-period penalty kill during Monday's 3-0 loss at St. Louis. He was late to the ice to begin the second period, then fought through three painful shifts before being lost for good. Once he took off his skate for the second time, he said the pain was just unbearable.
"At some point you just can't do it anymore," Parise said.
After the game, Parise was clear discomfort and only wore a dress sock on his left foot as he spoke to the media.
Parise's loss comes at the start of the Wild's toughest stretch so far this season. Eight of the next 10 games come against Phoenix, Colorado, Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim.
"Really frustrated, especially looking at the schedule that we’ve got coming up," Parise said. "We have some important games, some tough games, so the timing is not ideal, so hopefully it won’t be that long and I’ll be able to come back sooner than we’re saying."
Parise said, "A lot of it has to do with when I’ll be able to walk comfortably, when I’ll even be able to push off in a skate comfortably. Hopefully that’ll be sooner rather than later with treatment."
Fletcher said the guidelines are very vague, that it could be 10 days, it could be three weeks, that "knowing Zach, he's such a competitor and wants to play, I don't want to guess when he'll be back, but two to three is a conservative estimate. We're fortunate."
Right now, Fletcher says the Wild hasn't officially called up any forwards because the roster is in a state of flux. Wednesday morning, the Wild essentially has to count bodies. If Josh Harding can't back up, he'll go on injured reserve. If Mikael Granlund can't play, he'll go on injured reserve, too. That would allow the Wild to call up a forward and activate Keith Ballard, who is probable to return, off IR. They also have to see if Torrey Mitchell can return.
"We certainly have our share of injuries right now," Fletcher said. "We’ll just have to do our best. We believe our depth is better. this will be an opportunity for some players to step up and play bigger roles on our team. Dany Heatley has done a lot better the last couple weeks. This is an opportunity potentially for him to step up and play a bigger role. Jason Zucker is a player that didn’t make our team out of camp and now potentially there’s a bigger role staring him in the face as well. We certainly have on paper the guys that can step in and score goals. It’s going to be a challenge. You can’t replace Zach. There’s not another Zach Parise in your minor-league system, so we’ll have to rely on some other players to step up and take advantage of a bigger role and hopefully we find a way to score enough goals.”
Coach Mike Yeo will discuss what Parise's loss does to the lineup after Wednesday's morning skate.
"I think we’ll do fine," Parise said. "We’ve been playing well and we’ve been getting points and playing some good hockey. I do think we have some tough games coming up, but I think the guys will do fine and hopefully I’ll be back sooner rather than later."
Said Fletcher: "We'll see what this means. There's no reason to be overly down about it. Every team goes through this. We'll just have to deal with it."
I will be on KFAN on Wednesday from 9:55 a.m.-10:35 a.m. and also at 5:15 p.m.
I've wanted to write about this for some time, but respectfully, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter didn't want to discuss this publicly until after today's news conference to announce that he has joined the ownership group of the new Madison Capitols, which will join the USHL next fall.
Below is the press release.
As of now, there is no update as to Zach Parise's injured foot and as I mentioned last night, there's a good chance that news won't come until Wednesday morning. The Wild has the day off today and Parise's seeing the docs today. If there's any news later, I'll let you know.
MADTOWN HOCKEY, LLC ANNOUNCES NEW UNITED STATES HOCKEY LEAGUE CLUB FOR MADISON, WISCONSIN MARKET AND NAME OF TEAM; OWNERSHIP GROUP INCLUDES FORMER UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN AND CURRENT NHL STAR RYAN SUTER AND FORMER WISCONSIN HOCKEY PLAYER TOM SAGISSOR
Middleton, Wisconsin – In an announcement held today in front of a capacity crowd at the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton, Wisconsin, Madtown Hockey, LLC., announced it will compete in the United States Hockey League (USHL) starting in the fall of 2014. The name of the franchise as part of today’s announcement will be the “Madison Capitols.” The Capitols will begin competition in the 2014 USHL season and play its home games at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Also, announced today as part of the new ownership/investor group is current NHL and Minnesota Wild star defenseman, Ryan Suter, a former hockey standout at the University of Wisconsin and former Badgers hockey player and businessman, Tom Sagissor.
Suter and Sagissor join the ownership group who are hockey fans that include: Brian Schoenborn, Jeff Krol, Charles Bidwill III, Saul Trieman and Tom Garrity. The Madison Capitols will hire full-time employees, coaches and a training staff, along with securing players in the coming months that will also help provide a strong economic impact to the local community.
“Today is a wonderful day for hockey in Madison, Wisconsin,” said Garrity a native of Prairie du Chein, Wisconsin and a University of Wisconsin-Platteville graduate. “This area has always supported hockey at all levels. Fans will enjoy the USHL and its style of play. Our ownership group has a strong desire and goal to give fans a winning product on the ice and a total entertainment experience from start to finish. At the same time, we are proud to continue with the Madison Capitols name as it has a rich hockey tradition and significance in this area. We will also be active community participants to help grow the game of hockey at all levels.”
As Managing Partner of Madtown Hockey, LLC., Garrity is no stranger to the USHL, professional and collegiate athletics sports. He has worked for several high-profile professional sports organizations and leagues at a senior-level. Garrity is the founder and CEO of Quan Sports Marketing in Stillwater, Minnesota and also President/CEO of the Sioux Falls Sports, LLC., which owns and operates the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede and Northern League Baseball’s Sioux Falls Canaries. He has helped both Sioux Falls sports organizations with substantially increased attendance numbers and sponsorship revenues.
The Madison, Wisconsin community is a “hotbed” for hockey development with a successful history and team named the “Madison Capitols.” Madison formerly had a USHL team from 1984-1995. 12 players who skated in Madison during that time period ended up competing in the National Hockey League. The Capitols have been playing junior hockey in Madison since 1984.
“I am so excited about the USHL playing in Madison where I have so many friends, memories and deep hockey roots,” said Suter who had a standout career at Wisconsin and currently is an NHL All-Star defenseman with the Minnesota Wild. “This is a new and unique opportunity for me to be an owner and investor and I believe in the product and the great staff that is being assembled. I look forward to the first game and the support of the great hockey fans in the Madison area.”
Ryan Suter comes from deep hockey blood-lines in the state of Wisconsin as his father, Bob Suter, is a former Badgers star in the late 1970’s and a member of the 1977 Wisconsin National Championship hockey team along with a 1980 Gold Medal as a member of the US Olympic Ice Hockey Team. Besides Ryan, Bob’s son, Garett currently plays hockey at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Bob Suter’s younger brother Gary was a top-performer at Wisconsin and played in over 1,000 NHL games with several clubs.
Sagissor, a former Badger hockey standout who was a member of the 1990 National Championship hockey team and also went on to play professional with the Montreal Canadiens organization. He is now a successful Divisional Director for RBC’s Wealth Management Group in Minnesota. He was a fifth round draft pick (96th overall) of the Canadiens in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft after a stellar high school career at Hastings (MN) High School. Sagissor is currently Director of Hockey in the Stillwater (MN) Youth Hockey Association and he serves on the Board of Directors for “Defending the Blue Line” non-profit organization assisting military families in need. Sagissor is still an active member in the University of Wisconsin “W” Club that raises funds for Badger Athletics.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime to bring a USHL club to a great hockey community like Madison,” said Sagissor. “I know the fans in this area will love to watch the development of these players over time. We wanted to keep the great tradition with the name Madison Capitols as it means so much to the history of hockey in this marketplace. I cannot wait for the team to drop the puck next fall.”
Added USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince, “We’re excited to bring the USHL to one of the Midwest’s greatest cities and hockey communities. Madison’s ownership and senior-management have already proven themselves to be innovative, focused and committed to making Hockey Night at the Alliant Energy Center a must-see event. We’re counting down the days until a team with the Wisconsin state capital’s name on their sweater hits the home ice. This will be special.”
In addition, announcements for the Madison Capitols in the past few months, included naming former long-time Denver University Assistant Hockey Coach and Sun Prairie, Wisconsin native Steve Miller as General Manager/Head Coach and Ed Chamberlain to the role as Team President for Madtown Hockey, LLC and the Capitols. Both positions will report directly to Managing Partner Tom Garrity and the ownership group.
First things first, on Tuesday, the persistent question I understandably expect to get from all Wild fans is, “Any update on Zach Parise yet?”
The answer will probably be, “No.”
The Wild has the day off Tuesday, so typically when that happens, injury updates aren’t revealed until the next availability, which will occur Wednesday morning. So you may have to hold your breath for 24+ hours or so.
Try not to turn blue.
If there’s an update, we’ll get it out to you ASAP. But right now, Parise was nailed on the instep of his left foot when he blocked Alex Steen’s one-timer on a first-period penalty kill.
Parise struggled to the bench and was late arriving to the game in the second period. He returned and it was clear his first hop of the boards that he wasn’t feeling the greatest. Still, he battled through three shifts, drew a penalty and played almost every second of a power play before leaving the game for good.
Parise emerged in the locker room after the game in just a dress sock. He was limping, but he said he didn’t know how bad it was and that he’ll wait to find out after seeing doctors and getting x-rays, an MRI, etc., on Tuesday.
“When a guy like Zach gets hurt, it’s always concerning because he’s a top-notch player and brings an awful lot more than just scoring goals," coach Mike Yeo said. "But I do think we’re a deep enough team and have enough character that we should be able to battle through it. But certainly it’ll be a challenge.”
Yeo then interrupted himself to say, “who knows with Zach,” and that the Wild must wait for results before it’ll know the prognosis and whether he can even play Wednesday against Phoenix.
If the Wild is without Parise for awhile, look out because the team just began its toughest stretch so far this season Monday with a 3-0 loss to St. Louis. In now eight of the next 10 games, it faces Phoenix, Colorado, San Jose, Chicago and Anaheim.
In order, Chicago, St. Louis, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado and Anaheim are the top-6 scoring teams in the league. Minnesota ranks 23rd and could be entering this stretch without its leading scorer either out or hurting.
Tonight, not a good game. Read all the coverage in the paper for most the details, but the Cliff’s Notes version: Disputable disallowed goal by the ref on Parise’s tally 30 seconds in (ruled a high-stick, and because of that, when there was no conclusive video evidence, the call stood up), and then 50 seconds later, Vladimir Sobotka scored.
Frustration engulfed the Wild and whether it was that, what St. Louis was doing or both, the Wild was schooled during a first period where virtually every waking moment was spent in the Wild end.
“I thought it’s in,” Mikko Koivu said of the Parise no-goal. “You want to have a good start on the road and I thought we did. And then they get their first right after, so that makes it even more frustrating. It’s a tough way to start the game when you think you score and it’s not a goal and they score right after. That’s an excuse. But the difference is we didn’t create enough.”
That’s for sure. The Wild created nothing in the first and barely anything in the second. The third was all Minnesota (12-1 shot count, the 1 being Steen’s empty-netter), but by then, Jaroslav Halak was there to make all the saves.
Yeo: “We were prepared, engaged right from the start, we come out and do what we’re supposed to do. To me, it’s clear, it’s a good goal.”
On Blues working the puck deep and going to work, Yeo said, “They were very strong on their gameplan. They were just getting everything in deep and forecheck and forecheck and forecheck. That’s how they got the lead and they committed to that.”
Yeo said the Wild wasn’t strong enough with its exits and when it had a chance to be first on pucks, players weren’t and that’s how St. Louis scored its first two goals.
Parise’s quotes on his disallowed goal in the new game notebook on www.startribune.com/wild, so please read that. He had some strong quotes.
Niklas Backstrom forked over a bunch of rebounds in the first, and then when the Wild’s D were routinely beaten to the net by Blues forwards, it turned into disaster.
Backstrom said, “That’s their strength. They’ve had a lot of success with that the last couple years. It’s always a challenge for the goalie against them. I don’t know if you want to call it playoff style hockey, but that’s how it is. In the playoffs, you get the bodies in front of the net and get the puck there.
Jason Pominville said once St. Louis got that early lead, it made life difficult, saying that’s what Ken Hitchcock teams thrive on. Also, the Wild’s just not drawing a lot of power plays lately. Pominville (and Yeo this morning) basically said when you’re backchecking all game, you’re not going to draw penalties.
“We’re not playing enough in the O zone,” Pominville said.
There is rarely a good time to play the powerhouse St. Louis Blues, but the Blues are churning like a buzz saw right now.
The Blues are arguably the deepest team in the NHL and have run through almost every opponent it has faced (three regulation losses in 23 games), blowing out many recently.
Early tonight, the Cup contenders played keep-away with the puck and barely gave up scoring chances to the Wild. In fact, the Wild’s best chance in the first two periods may have come on Zenon Konopka’s goalmouth backhander. When your best chance comes from an enforcer with one goal since Dec. 2011, it typically doesn’t bode well.
The Blues have racked up an 11-game home point streak against Minnesota, not losing in regulation to the Wild in St. Louis since Oct. 20, 2007.
Talk to you Tuesday if there’s Parise news. Otherwise, Wednesday morning.
Rugged veteran forward Mike Rupp will play his first NHL game since May 9’s playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight when the Wild visits the St. Louis Blues.
Rupp, coming off a five-game conditioning stint with AHL Iowa as the final step in his recoup from offseason knee surgery, draws into the lineup because center Mikael Granlund will miss his second game in a row with an upper-body injury.
Coach Mike Yeo says from what he’s “been told, we don’t have reason to be concerned. We’re just calling him day-to-day and we’ll see what happens here tomorrow.”
Yeo is being hush-hush about what the issue with Granlund is. Like I wrote on yesterday’s blog, he played four games since the Nazem Kadri head shot but was hammered by Marc Methot last Wednesday in Ottawa.
Whatever the injury is, the Wild is clearly thinking there’s a chance Granlund could play Wednesday against Phoenix because if he was already ruled out for that game, the Wild could simply place Granlund on injured reserve retroactive to last Wednesday and call up a forward to replace him. Instead, the Wild is keeping Granlund off IR, which would allow him to play Wednesday if he can.
Torrey Mitchell has been placed on IR (he can come off whenever he’s healthy) and that move allows Darcy Kuemper to back up tonight. Josh Harding was not able to return to St. Louis because of a stiff hamstring that was apparently spasming in Winnipeg.
Apparently, it’s a similar injury to why he had to come out of the Carolina game Oct. 24. Niklas Backstrom played the third period of that game and then consecutive games against Chicago.
Harding’s had some awful luck in this building anyway. He strained his groin here in 2005, which thrust Backstrom onto the NHL stage initially. He tore his ACL and MCL here in his preseason debut in 2010. He also got sick in a tie game here in the preseason. Johan Gustafsson proceeded to come in and the Wild got shellacked in the third.
Same thing as Granlund, the Wild is hoping Harding is a day-to-day thing and can play this weekend. If the Wild was worried, it could put Harding on injured reserve retroactive to the time of injury, but the problem with that is he would have to miss a week.
With the tough stretch of games coming up, the Wild needs Harding back soon.
Backstrom vs. Jaroslav Halak tonight. Ken Hitchcock is going against the grain, starting Halak, who is 1-2-3 against the Wild with a 2.45 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, as opposed to Brian Elliott, who is 4-0 against the Wild with a 2.04 goals-against average.
But both St. Louis goalies are playing great and Halak is 12-3-2 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .906 save percentage (Elliott 4-0-1 with a 1.79 GAA and .932 SV%).
Nate Prosser will skate on the blue line for Minnesota. Matt Dumba is scratched. Kevin Shattenkirk didn’t skate for St. Louis this morning because of the flu, so the Wild may catch a break there.
The Blues have gotten points in 10 straight at home vs. Minnesota since Oct. 20, 2007 (7-0-3, or from the Wild’s standpoint, Minnesota is 3-5-2 in its past 10 at St. Louis). The Blues have won five in a row vs. the Wild and is 5-0-1 in the past six.
The Blues have scored in 12 of the past 13 periods against Minnesota, at least three goals in three straight home games against Minnesota and outshot the Wild by at least 18 shots in each of the last three home games and 117-60 overall.
So, tough task tonight.
The Rupp-Zenon Konopka-Dany Heatley line should be an interesting one. Konopka is suddenly the best skater on the line, but if that line can play in the offensive zone and ask some size and physicality, it could be utilized well by the Wild tonight.
Yeo said he’s “anxious to have [Rupp] back and his teammates are, too.”
Rupp said the games in Iowa were a good thing for him.
“From Game 1 to Game 5, I’m pleased with the progress in that time,” Rupp said, saying he was trying to just get rid of some bad habits by not playing for so long.
What’s good for Rupp is he gets back to the Wild and can immediately play. A week ago when the Wild had Granlund and Mitchell, Rupp extended his conditioning stint because he thought it would be beneficial to him but because he also knew the Wild wasn’t about to fiddle with its winning lineup.
So Rupp would have done the rehab thing and then risked getting rusty again in the press box. Now he gets to continue getting back into the swing of playing again.
“I’m pleased with what progress has been made in the last 10 days,” Rupp said. “It’s been really good in my head. I want to keep building on that. The more I’m getting reps in practice and the more I’m playing, the stronger I’m going to get.”
Rupp said more than nerves tonight, there’s more “anticipation.”
“The NHL season is a big groove, and you want to find that as quick as you can,” Rupp said. “I’m joining a team that’s been playing really well, so you just want to try to be a part of it and build from game to game.”
I talked to David Backes, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter a lot about the U.S. leadership group they're a part of with Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan for the Olympics. That will be in tomorrow's paper. I'm also working ahead on a pretty fun story that will hopefully run Wednesday.
Good afternoon from chilly St. Louieee, where the Wild faces the big, bad Blues on Monday night at the house formerly called, Kiel Center.
Josh Harding, who was hurt in warmups Saturday in Winnipeg, returned to the Twin Cities this morning on a commercial flight from St. Louis. The MRI on his left leg “checked out,” according to Mike Yeo, meaning it was negative. Harding had one more doctor’s appointment this afternoon.
Apparently, Harding sustained some kind of spasms during warmup. It didn’t happen from stepping on a puck, as some reported.
The team is hoping Harding lets them know later today if he thinks he can return to St. Louis on Monday and back up Niklas Backstrom. The reason why this is important?
The Wild’s at the max 23-man roster – 14 forwards (includes Mike Rupp; activated off IR to make him eligible for conditioning stint to Iowa), 7 defensemen, 2 goalies.
Mikael Granlund, who missed yesterday’s game in Winnipeg with an upper-body injury, didn’t practice for the second consecutive practice today. If he can’t play against the Blues, the only way the Wild can call up a forward is to place Torrey Mitchell (leg) on injured reserve. But if Harding can’t back up, Mitchell will be placed on IR so Darcy Kuemper is officially added to the roster to back up.
If that were the case, the Wild will either have to dress seven defensemen (Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba) again like Winnipeg or Rupp, expected to join the Wild after playing five games for Iowa on a conditioning stint that ended yesterday, would have to make his season debut. Reports are Rupp did get better every game but that he looked slow with his skating (not that Rupp’s ever been a speedster, especially with the recent knee issues).
“Everything seems good,” Yeo said of Harding. “If he feels good enough, we’re hoping he can back up tomorrow. But again, comfort wise, his pain tolerance, he has to be able to go out and perform if needed to.”
Yeo hasn’t ruled out Granlund against the Blues, but he hasn’t been on the ice since the Ottawa game. I asked Granlund to talk today, but he didn’t want to. He’s showing no signs of an obvious injury. I asked Yeo if it’s a concussion – he’s played four games since the Nazem Kadri head shot, but he was crushed into the boards by Marc Methot in Ottawa – and Yeo just said it’s an upper-body injury and wouldn’t say when it happened or how or what.
Jared Spurgeon didn’t practice today, but Yeo says he expects him to be in the lineup Monday night.
Yeo said in his mind, Keith Ballard isn’t ready, plus for Ballard to play, two players would have to go on IR.
Yeo said all lineup decisions will be made Monday, and again, a lot has to do with how Harding feels and if he returns to St. Louis.
Beginning Monday in St. Louis, nine of the Wild’s next 11 games come against the top five teams in the Western Conference and the current eighth-place team – in order, Anaheim, Chicago, St. Louis, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix. Those six teams are a combined 95-26-14 (.756).
Of those teams, the Wild has only played Anaheim and Chicago this season, going a combined 1-1-1.
So by mid-December, we’ll all get a really good sense of the Wild.
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