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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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.

Mike Yeo and Thomas Vanek meet, discuss Wild role and off-ice distractions

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: December 7, 2014 - 9:30 AM

Update: In Josh Harding's second start with Iowa on Saturday night, he had to leave a game at Charlotte after two periods due to dehydration, GM Chuck Fletcher said on Sunday. Harding allowed two goals on 21 shots and got the loss.

The Wild, which has the day off Sunday before returning to the ice Monday at Ridder, had a very interesting practice today at Xcel Energy Center.

It was a good workmanlike practice, one that pleased coach Mike Yeo after Friday’s painful loss to Anaheim.

“Just wanted to make sure everybody’s heads were in the right place,” Yeo said. “I liked our practice a lot today. Some battle areas, some wall play, some things that we know we can be better at. Our guys had a good focus. It was an emotional loss last night, a difficult one, but we moved past it quickly.”

Yeo met with several players one-on-one before and during practice, including struggling Thomas Vanek, who after a couple promising games at Dallas and home against St. Louis, had two bad, turnover-filled, shotless games in a row.

Yeo and Vanek were very transparent regarding their chat, and more on that in a sec.

First, the news of the day:

1. Captain Mikko Koivu missed practiced with what Yeo called a “very, very minor strain” and he’s expected to practice Monday. Koivu was around doing an off-ice workout and it doesn’t appear to be anything serious.

2. Ryan Suter practiced. The hope is he can practice Monday and return Tuesday against the Islanders.

“He’s a tough farm boy,” Yeo said. “I think he’s not going to want to stay out for too long.”

3. The goaltending. I’ll write more about this for Tuesday’s paper, but Darcy Kuemper has been pulled from three of his past four home starts with a .755 save percentage and 5.37 goals-against average in those games. Other than the third period against Winnipeg a few weeks back, Backstrom has been good in his past six starts/appearances.

“We haven’t determined our starting goalie, but the way [Backstrom] has played lately, it gives him a very good chance” to start Tuesday, Yeo said.

On Kuemper, Yeo said, “I just know he’s capable of more. The good games that he has played lately have been response games. It’s like there’s a different approach or mindset that he has going into [those type of] games, so if it’s something preparation wise, if it’s something that we need to do differently, whatever the case is, we need to find a way to make sure that he’s prepared and ready to go every game at the level he needs to be at.”

The problem with response games is it means you’re coming off a lot of bad ones. Yeo wonders if it’s attitude.

“If you look at the best stretch of hockey he played at the start of the year, he could have been in the minors for all he knew. He was trying to prove himself, he was trying to win the No. 1 job and so if that’s something -- I don’t want to put things into his head, but he’s got to figure it out how to play his best hockey.”

Again, Yeo said subtly, “Looking at [Backstrom], I know that he’s ready to go back in the net.” I took it as he’s not sure Kuemper is. But he said he would talk more with goalie coach Bob Mason and decide. “We always like giving players a chance to respond, but at the same token, Backy has been playing well.”

4. Yeo had what he called a “great talk” with Vanek before practice. Vanek has two goals and 12 assists this season and 39 shots in 25 games. Fourteen of those came in two games, so he has 25 shots in 23 others, including one or none in 16 games.

He has not scored a goal at 5-on-5 this season.

Yeo said there are a number of factors why, from Vanek bouncing from line to line to not working hard enough to the off-ice gambling issue that has been stressing him out.

Yeo: “I have no problem saying, it’s been public knowledge, but this stuff that he’s trying to deal with, I don’t want to say it’s a huge distraction, but it’s got to be weighing on him. There’s no about that. There’s the fact that he came [back to Minnesota] and he’s putting pressure on himself, he’s been bouncing around from different lines, he’s off the top PP now, there’s a number of things that could lead to him not feeling good about his game and so whatever the case is, today the message was pretty simple, ‘what are you doing when you’re a good player and what do we have to do to make sure you can control the things that you can control?’”

The message from Vanek? Put me back in a top-6 role. So today in practice, Vanek no longer skated on the third line with Nino Niederreiter and Kyle Brodziak.

Vanek came out of that meeting with Yeo and ended up on the top line with Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund. That is where he is expected to play against his former Islanders on Tuesday.

That second line, provided Koivu practices Monday, will be Jason Zucker-Koivu-Jason Pominville; Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Erik Haula; Ryan Carter-Kyle Brodziak-Justin Fontaine.

“I was really encouraged with the practice Thomas had today and for me that’s where it starts,” Yeo said. “This is not something that’s going to magically appear in Game 1. Even if he has a great game [against the Islanders], even if he has a few points, I want to see a good month of real good hard practice, more consistency through the games and then it’ll come for him.

“The message was, ‘you do those things and we’ll take care of our part.’”

Yeo said Vanek was “very receptive. He really wants to do well. I don’t care who you are, a veteran, young kid, it’s always more difficult for a skilled guy to get out of something like this. … If they’re not scoring goals, they’re not feeling good.”

Still, this is not like a normal slump. It is beyond clear by just using our eyes that Vanek’s problems stem from not shooting, turning pucks over, not skating hard consistently and not working hard enough.

“I’m not defending all those aspects. We’ve talked about those things,” Yeo said. “It’s not like he’s trying not to work. It’s just other things get on your mind and you forget about the little things and, quite often when I talk to players, not just him, quite often they actually think they are working hard and that’s because they don’t see the other parts of their game that are missing.”

So why reward Vanek with a first-line role?

“Zach is a guy with his work ethic, with his instincts, with his skill, he has a chance to make guys around him better,” Yeo said. “Thomas is too important for us. The easy thing to do is say it’s not working [and cast him aside], but then we’re not doing our job. If it’s not working, we have to look at what can we do differently. We’ll continue to try to find answers.”

So, Yeo has made it clear to Vanek he wants work ethic and good habits starting in practice. Yeo liked Vanek’s game against Dallas and St. Louis.

“Things didn’t go well the last couple games, so let’s get it back,” Yeo said.

Vanek admitted that he is putting a lot of pressure on himself.

“It is what it is. It’s hasn’t been a great start for me,” Vanek said. “I feel like I’m making plays for my linemates, but right now it’s not one of those slumps where I’m getting chances after chances. I’m more of a setup guy right now, but I have a good opportunity now with Granny and Zach and I’ve got to make the most out of it.

“Today I think was a good work day. I tried to get to the net and find those guys. Hopefully I can find my game again with those two guys.”

Vanek knows this is indeed his chance. It’s very clear that he made it very clear to Yeo that he can’t score consistently in a bottom-6 role. So Yeo is giving the veteran the benefit of doubt and putting him on the top line even though he arguably doesn’t deserve it.

In return, Vanek knows he needs to get it done.

“I don’t want to use an excuse, but when you play on one of the lower lines, for me it’s a different situation,” Vanek said. “You don’t get in the game as well as you want. Some guys are great with it. You look at a guy like [Ryan] Carter who doesn’t play a lot, but he just does it. I’ve got to be better at that. Now being with two guys who make plays and score goals, I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Vanek also admitted the off-ice gambling issue has weighed on him. A link to a big story the Buffalo News just published can be read here.

“It’s just nagging around,” Vanek said. “I made my comments and I know what I did was wrong and I’m trying to move on from it and someone (a lawyer) spouts out again.

“I can’t change it. I can’t do anything about it. Obviously it’s a story. It’s nothing I’d wish upon anyone and I’ve dealt with this since the summer and made amends to it. Is it something I’m happy keeps coming up? Obviously not. But for me the best way to get out of this is to play good hockey and find my groove.

“It’s not fun to deal with. Hopefully it’s over with now and I can find my game again.”

Darcy Kuemper exits early again as the Wild rallies, then blows third-period lead to Anaheim

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 5, 2014 - 11:27 PM

Zach Parise could have come out after tonight’s 5-4 loss to Anaheim and said, “Told ya.”

Just kidding.

But ironically one game after the Wild’s leading scorer angered some by asking if booing fans would have preferred the Wild scored four power-play goals against Montreal but lost, the Wild’s power play nearly ripped the roof off Xcel Energy Center tonight when Mikko Koivu and Parise connected power-play goals 11 seconds apart in the second period.

Those power-play goals helped the Wild storm back from a 3-0 hole. Jonas Brodin tied the score at 3-3 late in the second period, then Justin Fontaine snapped a 15-game goal drought 2:07 into the third.

But Darcy Kuemper, pulled in two of his previous three home starts, made it 3 for 4 when he gave up the tying goal to Tim Jackman 90 seconds later, then the go-ahead goal and eventual winner to Matt Beleskey less than five minutes after that.

Now, to answer the question I received 100 times (guessing) on Twitter after the game, Josh Harding has played one minor-league game in 11 months. He is not ready. He is expected to play at Charlotte on Saturday and Monday after stopping 50 of 54 shots in a 5-4 shootout loss last Sunday at San Antonio, but it’s the Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom show right now for the time being.

It’ll be interesting to see if Yeo allows Kuemper the net Tuesday against the Islanders because Yeo did his absolute best to tiptoe around any Kuemper questions in the postgame. He has bounced back before, but he only has to keep bouncing back because he keeps having games like tonight.

When a reporter opened the presser by noting that Kuemper didn’t seem to give up any bad goals but didn’t seem to make the key save when the team needed him to, Yeo subtly noted that Kuemper probably would agree with that.

And he did. After the game, Kuemper said he didn’t feel like he was fighting the puck (which he wasn’t) and got beat with good shots. But he said he can’t be letting in five and said it was tough giving up that tying goal to Jackman after the Wild worked so hard to rally back from a 3-0 hole and take a one-goal lead.

It was the third time in four starts Kuemper was yanked at Xcel Energy Center, and in those starts he has a .755 save percentage and 5.37 goals-against average. But he said he feels it’s just a “coincidence,” that he didn’t really have a chance to do anything against Buffalo because he was out of the net on two goals on two shots so the Wild could change momentum, that tonight he felt fine and that only the L.A. game did he feel he was fighting it.

So he said, mentally he feels fine right now.

Tonight was only the Wild’s third regulation loss in the past 11 games. But it is three points back of Winnipeg, which keeps on winning somehow. So do teams like Nashville and Calgary, so the Wild best get on a real run because it seems in this conference, you don’t gain ground when you win but you surely lose ground when you lose.

A perfect example is how the Wild was 7-2-1 in its previous 10 and not for more than a few minutes did it get into the top-8 and it actually somehow dropped from ninth to 10.

Now it doesn’t play til Tuesday when the Isles come to St. Paul. After that, a key three-game road trip to San Jose, Arizona and Chicago.

The Wild’s response came after an awful first period in which Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg gave Anaheim, the top team in the Western Conference, a 2-0 lead despite losing leading goal scorer Corey Perry to a lower-body injury after a Keith Ballard hip check.

Some Ducks fans felt it was clipping because Ballard seemed to get Perry across or below the knee, which is the definition of clipping in the rulebook. There was no call.

But how bad was the opening 20 for the Wild?  When your only two scoring chances are provided by fourth-line wingers Ryan Carter (no points in the past nine games) and Justin Fontaine (no goals since Oct. 28 before Friday), it’s safe to say nobody was running well.

In fact, other than one shot by Koivu, nobody from the Wild’s first, second or third line or any of the six defensemen had a shot.

But then the Wild rallied and got jolted by the fans before taking a 4-3 lead. Parise didn’t feel like the Wild got complacent and celebrated too early after the Fontaine goal, but he wasn’t about to single out the goaltending either.

He said the Wild played a decent game after spotting the Ducks a 3-0 lead, and he did say that with a little tongue in cheek because he’s well aware the 3-0 deficit before the team started to find its game is unacceptable.

“We rallied back, but there’s no reason that any of us should have a good feeling about that. We lost the game,” Yeo said.

The one positive of the game was Koivu and Parise scoring 11 seconds apart on the power play, so the hope is the Wild can build off of that while keeping the other parts of its game firm.

But the Wild can’t afford Ryan Suter to be out long. Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella were each minus-3 tonight, and Spurgeon has had a run of tough games lately. He is minus-8 in his past five games. Nino Niederreiter was also minus-3 tonight and Thomas Vanek was minus-2.

Talk to you after Saturday’s practice.

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