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.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
Email Michael to talk about hockey.
FOX Sports North, in conjunction with the Minnesota Wild and Wells Fargo, today announced details for the eighth annual Hockey Day Minnesota event taking place this Saturday, January 18. The day will feature more than 16 hours of original hockey-related programming. The complete television schedule can be found below.
The telecast event begins at 9:00 a.m. with a look at the rich history and tradition of the Handke Pit, followed by previews of the heart-warming and inspirational hockey stories that will be highlighted throughout the day. A list of features can be found below.
The regional sports network will have a full team of on-air talent reporting throughout the day, including Tom Chorske, Ben Clymer, Marney Gellner, Mike Greenlay, Kevin Gorg, Casey Hankinson, Tom Hanneman, Anthony Lapanta, Doug McLeod, Wes Walz, and Doug Woog. Viewers will also see a few familiar faces from last year, including Brendan Burke (play-by-play for high school games) and Sophia Minnaert (sideline reporter for high school games). The broadcast team will receive exposure across the region, as well as across the US with select coverage set to air on FOX Sports 2.
Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 Highlights:
Fans can engage in a brand new social media experience this year with the opportunity to be part of the telecast via text and photo submissions collected using #HDM2014. The custom “squeeze back” social screen on FOX Sports North PLUS will begin at 9:00am. In addition, fans can win great prizes throughout the day from the Wild and FOX Sports North, like merchandise, game tickets and a TV truck experience, by using #HDM2014 on Twitter. The Wild will drive the conversation from @mnwild with several #stateofhockey related questions. FOX Sports North PLUS channel listings: Click Here
The State of Hockey Legacy Award, first presented as a part of Hockey Day 2010, will be presented to Lou Nanne, the Minnesota hockey legend who this year celebrates calling his 50th high school state tournament. Nanne starred for the University of Minnesota, the 1968 United States Olympic team and the Minnesota North Stars. Off the ice, he helped manage numerous United States National teams, and was the face of the North Stars as General Manager and President. Prior Legacy Award winners include Lou Cotroneo, Neal Broten and Glen Sonmor.
For the first time, FOX Sports North will incorporate an exclusive Hockey Day Minnesota theme song throughout the broadcast. “Winter Love” by Bracher Brown, which was previewed earlier in January by Paul Fletcher on Cities 97, will air throughout the day along with highlight clips and unique content. The track can be purchased on iTunes.
Another new element, FOX Sports North will debut a winter “Fan Express” bus on Hockey Day Minnesota. The fully wrapped 55-seat luxury charter bus featuring FOX Sports branding and Minnesota hometown winter sports teams will serve as a shuttle for fans attending the outdoor events in Elk River.
Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 Features:
The Handke Pit: A one-of-a-kind outdoor rink in Elk River, Minn., the Norman Rockwell-like site was formed by glaciers, and the natural bowl ‘pit’ is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been in continuous use as a winter rink since the 1920’s, and features extensive stonework and a stone warming house dating back to the New Deal.
Pine City: Brain cancer took Beau Berglund at the age of 25. The hockey fanatic’s funeral was held at a hockey rink in Pine City, Minn. His memory lives on through an annual outdoor charity tournament in Pine City on Hockey Day.
Andrew Qualy: A Shakopee native and avid hockey player, Qualy joined the Army in 2013. While serving in Iraq, he was wounded in action and suffered a broken skull and shattered leg. Now back in Minnesota, the Minnesota Warriors hockey team plays an important role in his rehab, both mentally and physically.
Paul Martin: The Elk River, Minn. native and current Pittsburgh Penguin is arguably the best hockey player the community has produced. Martin gives us a personal tour of his hometown and reflects on his hockey memories.
The Reilly Family: Three brothers, Conner, Ryan and Mike, all currently play hockey for the Golden Gophers, following in their dad’s footsteps.
Special Olympics Poly-Hockey: A heart-warming story about the Burns family from Owatonna and a reminder that hockey is for everyone. Learn more about poly-hockey, a sport only offered by Special Olympics in the states of Minnesota and Michigan.
A “FOX Sports Supports” partner, Special Olympics Minnesota will be honored as an important community partner on Hockey Day Minnesota. The not-for-profit organization will officially kick off their Polar Plunge season at Lake Nokomis (the site of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships) with the support of FOX Sports and FOX Sports North.
The Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 schedule is as follows:
10:00 a.m. Rochester Lourdes vs. Cloquet/Esko/Carlton Handke Pit, Elk River FSNorth/ PLUS, FS2/FSGo
1:30 p.m. Elk River vs. Stillwater Handke Pit, Elk River FSNorth/ PLUS, FS2/ FSGo
5:00 p.m. University of Minnesota vs. Ohio State Mariucci Arena FSNorth/PLUS, FS2/ FSGo, BTN2Go
8:00 p.m. Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars Xcel Energy Center FSNorth/PLUS
*11:00 p.m. Elk River vs. Anoka (girls) Handke Pit, Elk River FSNorth/PLUS, FS2, FSGo
Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 on FOX Sports North will be the eighth annual celebration of hockey from peewees to pros. Previous sites for outdoor games include Baudette Bay (2007-08), St. Paul (2009), Hermantown (2010), Moorhead (2011), Lake Minnetonka/Excelsior (2012) and Grand Rapids (2013).
Wild goalie Josh Harding, who took part in the Wild’s morning skate today in preparation for tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators, talked this morning to the media for the first time since his Dec. 31 start against the Blues.
Harding will miss his seventh consecutive game today and 11th in the past 13 games since having his treatment altered for multiple sclerosis.
He had not been feeling well, and while Harding didn’t get into specifics, he certainly intimated this was MS-related many times during his press gathering and said he’s feeling well now.
“I wasn’t feeling good,” Harding said. “If I felt even a little bit like I could play, I would have. But there are some things that are out of my control and I thought we did everything that is in our control to get back to where we are right now.
“Like I said, it was out of my control.”
Harding plans to practice with the Wild for the first time Wednesday. Asked how long he thinks it’ll take him to get back in the lineup, Harding said, “I’ve been working out hard with our strength coach, Kirk Olson. While the team’s been gone, I’ve been on the ice. Now it’s just a matter of getting the reps in and getting back, finding a rhythm and getting in control.”
Harding is 18-7-3 (18-5-3 before he left the team Dec. 18). He still leads the NHL with a 1.65 goals-against average and is second with a .933 save percentage.
He doesn’t want to look at what-ifs, but he admits the timing of this was awful.
“When you’re playing good, when you’ve got that rhythm, when you’re getting in there and finally getting the chance, you want to run with it,” Harding said. “Again, there are some things that are out of my control and I’m just happy with how we all dealt with it and figured out what we could control and did it.”
On how happy that the Wild has won five of six since he left the team, Harding said, “They’ve been playing awesome. I need to work hard to not be the weak link when I get back. Kuemps and Backy have been dynamite.”
Speaking of “Kuemps and Backy,” Darcy Kuemper will get a second consecutive start and third in five games tonight against Ottawa. Kuemper is coming off a 23-save shutout at Nashville and has stopped 62 of 63 shots in the past two games (excluding his four in a shootout at L.A.).
“He looks much more composed and in control in the net,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It was evident in the shootout how confident he is when he made that save on [Mike] Richards (referring to how Kuemper coolly flipped the puck out of his glove). Earlier this year, he had a bit of a deer in headlights look. He’s delivered.”
Kuemper looked cool, calm and collected before his first home start of the season. He was shooting the breeze with teammates all post-skate in the locker room.
Same lines tonight and D pairs as the last three games and a period (Yeo changed the lines right before the rally in L.A., after Jarrett Stoll made it 1-0). That means Mike Rupp and Keith Ballard will be scratched.
I talked to Ballard this morning and will have his quotes in Wednesday’s paper regarding what he feels about being scratched in four straight games. Basically, he understands Yeo not wanting to change the lineup right now and admits he’s got to be better.
Zach Parise skated for the first time today. He will miss his 11th straight game and is still a ways away from returning.
Jared Spurgeon is expected to skate by the weekend and Mikko Koivu is progressing.
Brett Bulmer will miss six to eight weeks with a sprained ankle and sprained knee. Much better diagnosis than initially feared. He’s in Des Moines rehabbing.
I’m about to join Sirius/XM at 12:25 p.m. for a little radio
I am doing the Star Tribune Chalk Talk tonight with Wes Walz at 5:30 p.m. If you want tickets to that and the Senators game or future Chalk Talks, go to www.wild.com/chalktalk. I’ll also be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission tonight.
On Wednesday, I will be filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN from 9-noon, so please tune in and call in.
Greetings from Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild’s four-game winning streak was snapped by Colorado.
It was hard to get a great read out of the locker room. With a game tomorrow in Nashville, everybody was getting out of there fast. But, from talking to players, there didn’t seem to be too much despair after the home loss.
The players and Mike Yeo both said the team played well, or at least well enough to win. The team controlled the puck, got scoring chances. Problem was, the team also made some mistakes and Colorado made them pay.
Here are some observations from tonight’s game:
--After being so good while winning three straight games, I thought Niklas Backstrom was a bit less effective tonight. Even he admitted that Ryan O’Reilly’s first goal – a bad-angle shot from beneath the circle to Backstrom’s left that made the score 2-0 --, wasn’t a good one. “I’d like to have that one back," he said. Still, I think, he played well enough to win. Colorado’s first and third goals came as a result of mistakes, leaving Backstrom holding the bag. Now we’ll see how Darcy Kuemper handles the pressure of a must-win road game tomorrow.
--Both Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley were talking post-game about the chemistry the two are forming now that they’ve had a chance to play together for a while on a lie that also includes Jason Zucker. Heatley assisted on both of Coyle’s goals, and both passes were very nifty. For Heatley, it was his second multi-point game of the season and it was Coyle’s first two-goal game.
--Matt Cooke took two very ill-advised penalties tonight. The first created a 5-on-3 advantage for Colorado, the second came shortly after O’Reilly’s game-winning goal, with the Wild buzzing in the Colorado end.
--The Wild power play, hit or miss all season, was very ineffective tonight. In two chances the Wild failed to create a decent scoring opportunity.
That’s about it for now. The mighty Mike Russo will be back in the saddle tomorrow night in Nashville. Have a great rest of your weekend.
Darcy Kuemper will be making his second start of the season tonight for the Wild when it visits the Los Angeles Kings.
Niklas Backstrom is able to play, but has abdominal stiffness. Backstrom, during practice, spent extra time working with Andrew Brunette and goalie coach Bob Mason.
Backstrom didn’t practice yesterday because of what was termed maintenance by the Wild.
Coach Mike Yeo didn't reveal tonight’s starter. Backstrom was unavailable to the media, a Wild team policy on game days.
As you know, Josh Harding is on injured reserve. Kuemper, 23, the former Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year and Western Hockey League Player and Goalie of the Year, is 0-1 this season in two appearances. He has given up six goals on 16 shots for a .625 save percentage and 6.13 goals-against average. He was pulled in Toronto after allowing three goals on seven shots through 32:23.
But in the minors, he has gotten his game together. He, too, had been nursing an injury and wasn’t called up during the last Wild road trip because he was injured for Iowa.
For the Baby Wild, Kuemper is 7-10 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, which is second in the AHL.
He said the other day that he feels he has gotten his game together and was anxious to show it up here. He gets that chance tonight.
In other Wild news:
-- Matt Dumba has officially been loaned to Portland of the Western Hockey League for the rest of the season. This has been reported the past few days and was in today’s Harding notebook here.
-- With Mikko Koivu sidelined a month after ankle surgery, Dany Heatley will wear the third ‘A’ with Ryan Suter (permanent A) and Jason Pominville, who has been wearing an ‘A’ since Zach Parise went down. Parise, again, is expected to start skating later this week. He’ll miss his seventh game tonight with a broken foot.
-- The Wild’s top three centermen tonight – Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula – have combined for 137 games played in the NHL, and most of Coyle’s experience has been at right wing. The Kings’ top three centermen tonight – Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll – have combined for 1,863. This doesn’t count Jeff Carter, who can slide into center. He has played 597 games.
Wild’s lines again are:
My guess is Brodziak will move up to the third line at some point.
(At some point, probably)
If you won’t Olympics rosters, check out the previous blog.
Mikael Granlund on making Team Finland: “It’s such a great feeling to be there and have a chance to play for your country and have a chance to win something there. It’s a great honor. It’s always an honor to put that Team Finland jersey on.”
Jonas Brodin on not making Team Sweden and being an injury alternate: “We have some good D-men in Sweden. I can’t focus on that right now. It’s a gameday. They texted me one week ago. If someone gets injured, I’m ready to play.”
WILD GOALIE DRAMA
Here’s mostly a cut-and-paste a Jan. 2 blog, but:
Backstrom and Harding have been the Wild's tagteam for GM Chuck Fletcher's five years (Harding has missed much of two full seasons though, once with a torn ACL/MCL, once last year with MS complications).
But it is unbelievable how many times Harding and Backstrom have been sick or injured in that five-year timespan and unbelievable how many times the Wild has had to carry three goalies on its active roster because of it.
The Wild's goalie carousel annually is not a normal thing in the NHL. I mean, just look at last year's playoffs as the best example. Backstrom hurt in warmups, Harding hurt during Game 4, the will he start, won't he start, will he start, won't he start drama at the pregame skate in Game 5.
Here’s this year alone:
Oct. 8 in Nashville, Backstrom strains his knee.
Oct. 15 in Toronto, Kuemper gives up three goals on seven shots and Harding, whom the Wild wanted to give the game off because of his MS, has to come in and relieve him.
Oct. 24 against Carolina, Harding sustains muscle spasms in his leg and Backstrom, in his first game back from the knee injury, has to replace him after two periods and start consecutive games against Chicago.
Nov. 13 against Toronto, Harding can't start because he's not feeling well.
Nov. 13 against Toronto, Backstrom suffered a concussion when run by Nazem Kadri. Harding has to enter.
Nov. 23 at Winnipeg, Backstrom is activated off IR to back up first game after concussion. Kuemper reassigned. In warmups, Harding suffers muscle spasms. Backstrom is thrust into duty (Kuemper is rushed back from the airport and arrives in the first period on emergency status), Backstrom wins that game, has to start in St. Louis and against Phoenix.
Harding returns against Colorado on Nov. 29 and then has to start Nov. 30 because Backstrom is sick.
Harding leaves the team Dec. 18-29 to have “minor adjustment” to his multiple sclerosis treatment protocol.
Jan. 2 against Buffalo: Harding not feeling well, Kuemper called up.
Jan. 6: Harding placed on injured reserve
Jan. 7: Backstrom's abdominal issue is causing Kuemper to start on a team already missing Koivu, Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Harding.
If Mikko Koivu can play in next month's Olympics, he will almost certainly captain Finland in Sochi, Russia. The captaincy was between Mikko Koivu and older brother Saku Koivu, and Koivu declined Finland's invitation to partake in the Olympics in order to rest up the stretch run of this season for Anaheim.
GM Chuck Fletcher said yesterday he expects Koivu will be back in the Wild's lineup by early February.
Koivu underwent surgery on his right ankle yesterday to accelerate the recovery of a broken ankle by a month. Here's that story.
Mikael Granlund, one of the heroes during Finland's gold-medal run in the world championships a few years back, has also made Finland's team.
However, 20-year-old Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin was left off Sweden's roster. As I said on Fox Sports North's pregame show Saturday, I thought it would be tough for Brodin to crack the top-7 because Sweden is so deep. Brodin, who is tied for seventh among NHL defensemen with seven goals and 22nd among NHL defensemen in ice time (24:29), reportedly will be the first alternate in case of injury.
The blue line includes Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Edler, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Henrik Tallinder
The Tallinder selection is the lone confusing one. Snubs for Sweden on D besides Brodin include Victor Hedman, Tobias Enstrom and Hampus Lindholm.
Yesterday, Nino Niederreiter made Team Switzerland. Here is that team.
Again, here's the United States, which include Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. This gives the Wild five participants in Sochi unless Brodin gets an invite at a later date.
From the NHL: REPRESENTATIVES BY NHL TEAM
Anaheim Ducks (7): F Ryan Getzlaf and F Corey Perry (Canada); D Sami Vatanen and F Teemu Selanne (Finland); F Jakob Silfverberg (Sweden); G Jonas Hiller (Switzerland); D Cam Fowler (United States).
Boston Bruins (5): F Patrice Bergeron (Canada); F David Krejci (Czech Republic); G Tuukka Rask (Finland); D Zdeno Chara (Slovakia); F Loui Eriksson (Sweden).
Buffalo Sabres (4): F Zemgus Girgensons (Latvia); G Jhonas Enroth and D Henrik Tallinder (Sweden); G Ryan Miller (United States).
Calgary Flames (2): D Ladislav Smid (Czech Republic); G Reto Berra (Switzerland).
Carolina Hurricanes (3): F Tuomo Ruutu (Finland); D Andrej Sekera (Slovakia); D Justin Faulk (United States).
Chicago Blackhawks (10): D Duncan Keith, F Jonathan Toews and F Patrick Sharp (Canada); D Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic); F Michal Handzus and F Marian Hossa (Slovakia); D Niklas Hjalmarsson, D Johnny Oduya and F Marcus Kruger (Sweden); F Patrick Kane (United States).
Colorado Avalanche (4): F Matt Duchene (Canada); G Semyon Varlamov (Russia); F Gabriel Landeskog (Sweden); F Paul Stastny (United States).
Columbus Blue Jackets (5): G Sergei Bobrovsky, D Nikita Nikitin, D Fedor Tyutin and F Artem Anisimov (Russia); F Marian Gaborik (Slovakia).
Dallas Stars (3): F Jamie Benn (Canada); G Kari Lehtonen (Finland); F Valeri Nichushkin (Russia).
Detroit Red Wings (10): F Pavel Datsyuk (Russia); F Tomas Jurco and F Tomas Tatar (Slovakia); G Jonas Gustavsson, D Jonathan Ericsson, D Niklas Kronwall, F Daniel Alfredsson, F Johan Franzen and F Henrik Zetterberg (Sweden); G Jimmy Howard (United States).
Edmonton Oilers (3): F Ales Hemsky (Czech Republic); D Anton Belov (Russia); D Martin Marincin (Slovakia).
Florida Panthers (2): F Aleksander Barkov (Finland); F Tomas Kopecky (Slovakia).
Los Angeles Kings (6): D Drew Doughty and F Jeff Carter (Canada); D Slava Voynov (Russia); F Anze Kopitar (Slovenia); G Jonathan Quick and F Dustin Brown (United States).
Minnesota Wild (5): F Mikael Granlund and F Mikko Koivu (Finland); F Nino Niederreiter (Switzerland); D Ryan Suter and F Zach Parise (United States).
Montreal Canadiens (8): G Carey Price and D P.K. Subban (Canada); F Tomas Plekanec (Czech Republic); D Andrei Markov and D Alexei Emelin (Russia); G Peter Budaj (Slovakia); D Rafael Diaz (Switzerland); F Max Pacioretty (United States).
Nashville Predators (2): D Shea Weber (Canada); D Roman Josi (Switzerland).
New Jersey Devils (3): F Patrik Elias and F Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic); F Damien Brunner (Switzerland).
New York Islanders (4): F Michael Grabner and F Thomas Vanek (Austria); F John Tavares (Canada); D Lubomir Visnovsky (Slovakia).
New York Rangers (7): F Rick Nash (Canada); F Mats Zuccarello (Norway); G Henrik Lundqvist and F Carl Hagelin (Sweden); D Ryan McDonagh, F Ryan Callahan and F Derek Stepan (United States).
Ottawa Senators (2): F Milan Michalek (Czech Republic); D Erik Karlsson (Sweden).
Philadelphia Flyers (5): F Michael Raffl (Austria); F Jake Voracek (Czech Republic); D Kimmo Timonen (Finland); D Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia); D Mark Streit (Switzerland).
Phoenix Coyotes (5): G Mike Smith (Canada); D Zbynek Michalek and F Martin Hanzal (Czech Republic); F Lauri Korpikoski (Finland); D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Sweden).
Pittsburgh Penguins (7): F Sidney Crosby and F Chris Kunitz (Canada); D Olli Maatta and F Jussi Jokinen (Finland); F Evgeni Malkin (Russia); D Paul Martin and D Brooks Orpik (United States).
San Jose Sharks (4): D Marc-Edouard Vlasic and F Patrick Marleau (Canada); G Antti Niemi (Finland); F Joe Pavelski (United States).
St. Louis Blues (10): D Jay Bouwmeester and D Alex Pietrangelo (Canada); F Vladimir Sobotka (Czech Republic); F Vladimir Tarasenko (Russia); G Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia); F Patrik Berglund and F Alexander Steen (Sweden); D Kevin Shattenkirk, F David Backes and F T.J. Oshie (United States).
Tampa Bay Lightning (6): F Steven Stamkos (Canada); D Radko Gudas and F Ondrej Palat (Czech Republic); D Sami Salo and F Valtteri Filppula (Finland); F Richard Panik (Slovakia).
Toronto Maple Leafs (3): F Nikolai Kulemin (Russia); F Phil Kessel and F James van Riemsdyk (United States).
Vancouver Canucks (7): G Roberto Luongo and D Dan Hamhuis (Canada); D Alexander Edler, F Daniel Sedin and F Henrik Sedin (Sweden); D Yannick Weber (Switzerland); F Ryan Kesler (United States).
Washington Capitals (3): F Alex Ovechkin (Russia); F Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden); D John Carlson (United States).
Winnipeg Jets (4): G Ondrej Pavelec and F Michael Frolik (Czech Republic); F Olli Jokinen (Finland); F Blake Wheeler (United States).
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