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 lost for the third time in five games tonight thanks to its fifth consecutive awful start.
It survived Ottawa and Winnipeg. It cost them in Montreal, St. Louis and tonight against Phoenix during a 3-1 defeat.
It didn’t help that Mikael Granlund was lost 29 seconds into the game. The Wild wasn’t specific about the upper-body injury that kept him out of the previous two games. This one we don’t need them to be specific. We have eyes.
Granlund sustained a head injury tonight for all to see. He went in to deliver a hit and Coyotes rookie defenseman Connor Murphy met him with a high hit Granlund didn’t expect. Granlund went down hard, was slow to get up and when he did, he skated slowly to the bench looking dazed.
Granlund has a history of concussion and now has taken three hard hits in the past eight games – a Nazem Kadri head shot and a Marc Methot hip check that sent him crashing into the boards, being the other two.
Coach Mike Yeo said Granlund was feeling a little better after the game, but he admitted concern now about his health.
The Granlund loss one shift into his night triggered an absolute mess with the lines. The Wild was excited to reunite the Nino Niederreiter-Granlund-Jason Pominville line. They were together for one shift.
Charlie Coyle, who hasn’t played nearly as well at center as he has at top-line right wing, had to move back to center and then everything got scrambled the rest of the game.
It took until the second period for the Wild to get any flow.
Jason Zucker was sent back to Iowa after the game. He scored twice tonight in a 3-1 win over Chicago and Yeo indicated Zucker will now come back and the Wild was basically forced into sending him back because Keith Ballard and Torrey Mitchell were ready to come off injured reserve. Personally, I would have kept Mitchell on IR for another game after no practices under his belt from his injury more than a week ago.
Regardless, Zucker probably comes back now. That doesn't fill a center need though, so either the Wild feels it has somebody in Iowa that can fill that role, or it'll have to continue to be Coyle.
When the Wild was racking up wins earlier this month, Yeo was able to go with the same lines every single night. In fact, other than Coyle and Mike Rupp (who missed the first 24 games), the Wild hadn’t had an injured forward all season until Mitchell missed the Ottawa game.
So a Wild team that had dealt with consistency with its lines all season is now having to mix and match not only every game, but from shift to shift, period to period, because of the injuries.
It’s clear it’s affecting the team early in these games. The one common denominator in all these slow starts is the Wild usually finds its game, like tonight in the third when it played with more zip and generated, according to Yeo, nine scoring chances. But by that time, it was a 2-0 hole and against a Phoenix team that spent the last 24 hours screaming that it needed to get back to the defensive foundation that Dave Tippett’s teams are known for, it was not easy to rally back on the Coyotes tonight, especially with an undermanned bench lacking Granlund and Zach Parise.
The power play was a mess tonight as well on two chances, and not a shock since the loss of two top-6 forwards resulted in guys like Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine, two guys normally not playing regular power-play shifts, seeing ice time and Keith Ballard playing his first game in the last 10.
But one indicator of the Wild’s slipping game is the lack of power plays lately. It has drawn 18 power plays the past seven games and three or fewer in each. It has drawn three or fewer in 11 of the past 13 games.
Even Yeo said a few days ago it’s hard to draw a power play when “you’re backchecking all game.”
Yeo said the Wild is playing too safe lately, maybe because of the injuries, maybe because it’s almost afraid to lose because of the magnitude of these games. If that’s the case, the Wild better man up fast because this isn’t changing. The race will only tighten and it’ll be a grind in this grind of a conference until Game 82.
“When we’re at our best, we’re playing an aggressive game with and without the puck,” Yeo said. “We seem to be starting these games a little hesitant.”
That’s it for me. Early practice Thursday. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everybody.
Maybe Zach Parise was inspired by Parise the horse coming off a year away and winning Woodbine's first race Saturday.
Parise arrived at Xcel Energy Center this morning in a walking boot and was expected to miss two to three weeks with a bruised foot. Now it would be shocking if that window holds up.
Parise got the media all into a tweeting lather this morning when around 10 a.m., the winger went on the ice in a track suit and tested the foot. He looked tentative as he pushed off. He left the ice after five minutes. I thought that was it.
Twenty minutes later, he emerged for the morning skate much to the delight of his teammates. During line rushes, he took his spot on the Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle line. Finally, the last line rush, Jason Zucker took Parise's spot. Coach Mike Yeo jokingly asked reporters if we even watched the skate because every he looked up, we were punching things in our phones.
Parise won't play tonight.
"I was stunned to be honest with you," Yeo said when he saw Parise come out for the skate. "I shouldn’t say that because that’s the way he is talking to him even yesterday. It’s very encouraging. It’s a great example to everybody just how bad he wants to compete and help the team."
Parise said when he limped into the arena in a walking boot this morning, he had no clue he would skate. But "I tried putting my skate on. I just wanted to see what it felt like."
He then decided to do the preskate twirl and "thought it felt good enough to at least try for a pregame skate."
At the start of the skate, Parise thought he was playing as he took regular line rushes: "I was hoping I could give it a shot, but as it went on and as I tried to do different things that are more game-like and reactionary, it hurt too much to try to be ale to play. I know that I wouldn’t be effective or comfortable out there."
In Parise's mind, that two-to-three week window means nothing: "I’m more so taking it day by day and seeing how I feel and getting some treatment. Hopefully I’ll be more comfortable [Thursday] and see what happens. I understand you have to, but I don’t like to put a timeframe on things. I’ll try to play when I can."
Parise said his foot feels better in a skate than barefoot or in sandals, which is why he decided to try to skate today.
He said when he stops and starts and quick starts at the beginning of drills, he just didn't have the power. Same with cross-overs to the one side. So he just knows he wouldn't have stability battling on the wall and protecting the puck.
Parise said of the important stretch of games coming up, "It wouldn’t matter to me who we were playing. I don’t like to miss games. I don’t want to sit out, so it doesn’t matter what the schedule looks like."
Keith Ballard will return tonight from two broken ribs and be paired with Clayton Stoner. Matt Dumba and Nate Prosser are scratched. Josh Harding will back up Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper will be reassigned.
The forwards are up in the air. In the skate, the second line was the reunited Nino Niederreiter-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line. The third line was Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Dany Heatley, while the fourth line was Justin Fontaine-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell.
I think Granlund returns
and Mitchell doesn't play. Mitchell is on injured reserve, so if he stays there, Zucker would be able to slot into the Koivu-Coyle line.
Mitchell has been taken off IR and Zucker has been reassigned.
Coyotes backup Thomas Greiss, who is 2-1 in five games with a 2.37 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, will start.
That's it for now. Wild actually didn't return to town until 2 p.m. yesterday as opposed to after the St. Louis game.
There was a sensor on their charter that a smoke detector wasn't working. But it wouldn't pinpoint which smoke detector, so they had to replace all nine. After staying on the plane for an hour after the game, the team filed off and returned to their downtown hotel before flying home Tuesday afternoon. That's why the Parise update came so late.
By the way, if you want to watch video of Parise winning the Woodbine race, here it is. Give the article a read above. It was a fun one.
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.
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