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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Posts about Wild news

Wild to play Colorado in first round of playoffs

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 13, 2014 - 1:57 PM

For the third time in franchise history, the Wild will face the Colorado Avalanche in the postseason.

The Avalanche won the Central Division this afternoon thanks to the plummeting St. Louis Blues’ home loss against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wild-Avs series is expected to start in Denver on Thursday.

The Avs, who are 8-1-1 in their past 10 and play a meaningless game tonight at Anaheim, has gone from 29th place to a division championship in one year with Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy in his first year as coach.

The Wild went 1-3-1 against the Avalanche this season. Since March 5, 2006, the Wild is 32-14-6 against Colorado and 13-3-3 in its past 19 in Denver.

But the Avs are a different team. Semyon Varlamov, a potential Vezina winner, just broke Roy’s single-season record with 41 wins. Guaranteed Calder winner Nathan MacKinnon, 18, is already one of the most threatening players in the West. Gabriel Landeskog is a rock-solid two-way forward, as is Ryan O’Reilly.. Bloomington’s Erik Johnson has had a terrific season on the blue line.

The Avs average the fourth-most goals per game in the NHL (3.00), although they rank 14th defensively (2.63 goals against per game).

In 2003, the Wild rallied from 3-1 down to beat Colorado in the first round. Andrew Brunette scored the most famous goal in franchise history and sent Roy into retirement by scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime. In 2008, after the Wild won the Northwest Division, Jose Theodore and the Avs stoned the Wild in six games.

“They are completely different than what they were last year,” said Jason Pominville. “They only added a couple players here or there, but their coaching staff must have done a great job there. They’re just playing with really, really good confidence. They’ve got a lot of skill up front that can make you pay.”

Added Ryan Suter on playing in Denver, “It’s a tough place to play with the altitude. If you get caught out there, that really hurts you. We enjoy playing there though. It is a tough building to play with good atmosphere, but we’ve had success there.”

Wild to face Colorado or St. Louis in first round of the playoffs

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 13, 2014 - 12:01 AM

The Anaheim Ducks clinched the Western Conference a second ago. That means the division winner with the second-best record will be Colorado or St. Louis.

That means the Wild, the top wildcard team in the West, will face one of those teams in the first round of the playoffs this week.

Sunday's scenarios:

The Blues face Detroit at home at 11:30 a.m. CT. The Ducks host Colorado at 7 p.m. CT. The Wild hosts Nashville at 7 p.m. CT

- If St. Louis loses in regulation to Detroit, the Wild plays Colorado.

- If St. Louis gets a point vs. Detroit, Colorado must get a point at Anaheim to play the Wild, or the Wild plays St. Louis.

- If St. Louis beats Detroit, Colorado must beat Anaheim to play the Wild, or the Wild plays St. Louis.

Playoff series schedules will be released Sunday night. I believe the Wild will open Thursday because are there are arena conflicts in both Colorado and St. Louis on Wednesday.

Talk to you Sunday morning after the morning skates. I'll also be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission.

Mike Rupp suspended four games by the NHL

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 11, 2014 - 3:05 PM

Wild veteran left wing Mike Rupp has been suspended four games -- the final regular-season game Sunday against Nashville and three playoff games -- for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie on Thursday night. He forfeits $7,692.31 in salary.

Rupp was assessed a match penalty midway through the second period for "attempt to injure." Replays showed Oshie had given up the puck when Rupp came by with what the league considers a classic head pick. Rupp's left shoulder hit Oshie's head with that being the principle point of contract -- the chief criteria for an illegal check to the head. Basically, for Rupp to make this hit, the puck needs to be on Oshie's stick and there needs to be full body contact.

Here is video of the league explaining its decision.

Rupp was an easy target for the league to send a message on because like I said last night, Rupp was playing probably his final regular-season game, his 13th of the season. It is unlikely the Wild plans to play Rupp in the playoffs considering he hadn't played since Feb. 1 and played four games since Dec. 31.

If Rupp can't find a job this summer, it'll be a shame if that was the final play of what has been a good career.

This was Rupp's first suspension by the NHL and although he has long been a tough customer, he has done it in a mostly honest fashion. Knowing Rupp, I don't believe he intended to injure Oshie. But he undoubedly messed up. Oshie left the game hurt and isn't playing tonight in Dallas.

Former Wild center Wes Walz sent out a couple tweets (see below) that ticked off Blues fans and Ken Hitchcock today, but the one point he makes that is accurate? No chance Rupp plays last night if the Blues didn't run around last game taking runs as Mikael Granlund, Jared Spurgeon and Darcy Kuemper. It was a continuation of a trend in many Wild games in St. Louis in recent years. This is the story on the St. Louis Dispatch web site that ran the morning of the game in St. Louis a few weeks ago. The Blues tried to send Minnesota a message, the Wild was physically outplayed that game in St. Louis, so the Wild responded by putting Rupp in during the rematch to protect its players and supply muscle. No chance the Wild wanted Rupp to take off Oshie's head, but last game's physicality by St. Louis is why the Wild felt the need to play Rupp yesterday.

Disagree all you want, but that's the facts.

By the way, if the Avalanche beats San Jose tonight and St. Louis loses in regulation at Dallas, Colorado would win the Central and the Wild's first-round opponent would be Anaheim or Colorado. Right now, the first-round opponent can be Anaheim, St. Louis or Colorado.

Lastly, ...

The American Hockey League announced today that Jake Dowell of the Iowa Wild has been named the 2013-14 winner of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.

The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

Dowell has served as captain of the Wild during the team’s first season in Iowa while also dealing with personal tragedy. Dowell’s father, John, passed away in February after a lengthy battle with Huntington’s disease, a debilitating genetic neurological disorder which also affects his older brother, Luke. Dowell’s openness about his family’s fight with Huntington’s disease and his advocacy for a cure has brought national awareness to the cause, while Dowell and his Wild teammates have taken part in charity drives and fundraisers for research.

A native of Eau Claire, Wis., Dowell has remained a leader on the ice in Des Moines throughout his trying season, appearing in 54 games with Iowa as well as one with the Wild’s NHL affiliate in Minnesota, with whom he is currently on recall. The seventh-year pro out of the University of Wisconsin has played 157 career games in the NHL with Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota, along with 302 career AHL contests with Iowa, Houston, Rockford and Norfolk. He was originally drafted by the Blackhawks in 2004.

This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1978, honors the late Fred T. Hunt, a long-time contributor to the league who won three Calder Cup championships as a player and three more as a general manager during a career spent primarily with the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Previous winners of the award include Ross Yates (1983), Glenn Merkosky (1987, ’91), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Murray Eaves (’89, ’90), John Anderson (1992), Tim Tookey (1993), Ken Gernander (1996, 2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2000), Mike Keane (2007), Ajay Baines (2009), Casey Borer (2010), Bryan Helmer (2011), Chris Minard (2012) and Brandon Davidson (2013).

Josh Harding Wild's Masterton Trophy nominee once again

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 8, 2014 - 7:41 PM

Josh Harding didn’t just show up to the rink and reel off a first half like few other NHL goalies.

“Behind the scenes, the outward appearance might be that he was just feeling good and going out and playing well, but he has to do a lot to make sure he’s in that state,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s overcoming challenges that not many people have to try to deal with.”

There were injections and cooling vests between periods to keep from overheating and countless other protocols that Harding, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, had to ensure in order to simply be able to strap on the pads.

“There were a lot of things that unless you were part of my immediate family that you wouldn’t have seen what I went through and what I have been going through,” Harding said. “There’s no need for people to feel bad. It’s just what it is and you deal with it.”

Harding, the NHL’s Masterton Trophy winner last season for exemplifying perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, has been selected as the Wild’s nominee for the second year in a row by the Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

“I have a lot of respect [for the other nominees], but this is life and death,” Yeo said.

Harding hasn’t played since Dec. 31 because of a “rough patch.” He still is considered to have a league-leading 1.65 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.

“This year was harder than last year,” Harding said. “Last year you’re coping with the new reality and this year, things were going probably the best they have in my career. From Day One of training camp, I just felt on. I felt back to normal. Unfortunately, things happened.”

Harding, who has started the charitable foundation, Harding’s Hope, took a positive turn last month, began skating and rejoined the Wild last week in practice. With Niklas Backstrom shut down and Darcy Kuemper still sidelined with an upper-body injury, the hope is Harding can at least get to the point where he provides insurance behind Ilya Bryzgalov.

“I would love to give you a distinct plan. I would if I could,” Harding said. “I’m going to take this day-to-day and see where this takes me. I’m very happy where I’m at. I have a ways to go to get to where I want to be, but I’m definitely on the right track.

“If there’s anything I can do to help out this hockey club, whether it’s being the third guy or battling and somehow getting back in there, it all depends how it goes.”

Harding has another year left on his contract. He plans to keep playing.

“Where I’m at right now is a million times better than where I was a month ago,” he said. “The way I’m feeling right now is the feeling I had before my leave of absence. Now it’s just getting back to hockey and doing what I love.

“When you’re out an extended period of time and it’s not a leg injury or an arm injury, you take life lessons away and it gives you more motivation and appreciation for the life that we have. We’re doing something that we love and we’ve worked all our lives to do this and I don’t want to give this up.”

Previous Wild nominees:
Josh Harding (2012-13), Clayton Stoner (2011-12), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (2010-11), Guillaume Latendresse (2009-10), Kurtis Foster (2008-09), Aaron Voros (2007-08), Marian Gaborik (2006-07), Wes Walz (2005-06, 2000-01), Alexandre Daigle (2003-04), Dwayne Roloson (2002-03) and Richard Park (2001-02).

Wild playoff strips on sale this morning; Wild Fan Celebrations at final 3 home games

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 7, 2014 - 9:42 AM

Good morning from Winnipeg, where the Wild and Jets face off tonight in the Wild's final road game. I'll be back later after the morning skates.

Also, I'll be on Hockey Night in Canada Radio on SiriusXM (207/211) today at 2:45 p.m. CT and on the arena cam on NHL Network today at 5:40 p.m. CT.

    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League (NHL) announced today that Stanley Cup Playoff Ticket Strips will go on sale on Monday, April 7, beginning at 10 a.m. CT exclusively on Wild.com. Prices and locations can be found on http://www.wild.com/2014playoffs. There is an additional $15 processing fee per order.
    Playoff Ticket Strips include a seat for each potential home game in the first and second round of the playoffs (a total of six games). Fans purchasing Strips for Round 1 and 2 will also have the option of placing a credit card on file for “pay-as-we-play” purchase of home games in Round 3 and 4.
    Playoff ticket strips begin at $390 for rounds 1 and 2. 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff strips are limited to six seats and the limit will be strictly enforced. Single-game playoff tickets will go on sale at a later date, pending availability.

Minnesota Wild To Host Fan Celebration at April 8, 10 and 13 Games

    SAINT PAUL, Minn.  – The Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League (NHL) has announced details of its annual Fan Celebration, set for the final three regular season home games at Xcel Energy Center – Tuesday, April 8; Thursday, April 10; and Sunday, April 13.

    Tuesday the Wild takes on the Boston Bruins. It’s Jerseys off Our Backs Night, as random fans will be selected to walk away with jerseys straight from a Wild player’s back. In addition, all fans will receive a Wild Bingoal card, courtesy of Innovative Office Solutions. Thursday, the Wild hosts Western Conference-leading St. Louis. All fans receive a scratch-and-win card. All fans attending the Sunday, April 13 game against Nashville will receive a commemorative team poster.

     The Wild is offering a special Fans Night Out ticket package for the games on April 8 and April 13 (Fans Night Out sold out for April 10). The unique ticket package costs $99 - it includes a lower-level ticket, all-you-can-eat hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and fountain soda, $3 draft beers through the end of the second intermission, in addition to an exclusive pre-game chalk talk with NHL alumni. The offer can still be purchased for April 8 and April 13 at http://www.wild.com/fancelebration.

    There is also an RBC Wealth Management Club Combo ticket package for all three games. Fans receive a club ticket, plus a $15 concession credit, for $95 or $85 depending on location.


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