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Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Schroeder may face seasonlong Iowa-Minnesota shuffle with Wild

The Wild’s last home win of last season came against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the first round, and tonight, the two rivals renew that rivalry at Xcel Energy Center.

Good day from the press room. A reminder, come to Tom Reid’s at 4 p.m. to take part in the Russo-Souhan Show podcast on Also, the Wild’s having a pregame party outside the arena at 4 p.m.

Justin Fontaine remains on injured reserve and won’t play tonight. Nino Niederreiter is OK (more below) and will play tonight.

Jordan Schroeder was recalled from AHL Iowa last night and will play in tonight’s home opener. No matter what Schroeder does tonight, I’d suspect he’ll be assigned to Iowa tomorrow barring injuries to other players.

The Wild doesn’t play again until Thursday at Arizona, the salary cap is calculated daily, so with the Wild now about $600,000 from the cap, there’s little chance it’ll have Schroeder practicing here taking up cap space. Remember, the cap is calculated daily in the NHL and doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room right now.

Lots of people have asked me if there’s any chance GM Chuck Fletcher would call his old Buffalo pal, Tim Murray, and offer him Niklas Backstrom. Of course. The Wild would also retain half the salary and cap hit, too, but right now the Sabres are going with Chad Johnson and may not have any interest in Backstrom even if that falters.

Unfortunately, Schroeder may be destined for a season of being up and down because of how tight the Wild is to the cap ceiling unless there continues to be injuries.

“I’m aware of it. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” Schroeder said. “That’s part of this business. You have to be able to take some punches. It’s how you respond and get back up that shows your character. I’m always going to be giving them 100 percent out there.”

It was a tough camp for Schroeder. He didn’t score in the preseason and had a groin injury, shoulder injury and strep throat all in the same week.

“I’m putting it behind me and I’m ready to work,” he said. “It’s always a great opportunity when you can come up right away. Anytime you get called back up and have an opportunity to play in the NHL, it’s an honor.”

Schroeder though admits he was stunned when informed last week he didn’t make the team and was placed on waivers.

“I was really disappointed. I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I took it pretty hard. That day was hard on me, but [I] manned up, put it behind me and got my head straight and [decided] I’m going to go down and work hard and do whatever it takes to get back up here.”

Unfortunately, like I said, without an injury, this opportunity will be very temporary. With only 11 healthy forwards, he can come up on emergency conditions and it delays when the Wild would next have to put him on waivers to continue the Iowa-Minnesota shuffle he very well may be destined for this season.

Schroeder will play the right side of Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle.

I personally believe Fontaine believes he’s ready to go, but this was the organizational decision and we’ll see if Fontaine plays at Arizona, where he once had a hat trick, incidentally.

Niederreiter is good to go tonight after his awkward collision with the boards in Denver in the third period. He gave us his perspective of what has been dubbed by some on Twitter at #DoctorGate.

In the NHL now, when you sustain a potential head injury, it’s a spotter’s job or in this case a trainer’s job to get that player to a so-called quiet room. He then gets baseline tested by a doctor and has to be cleared to return to the game.

Niederreiter came to the bench, told Wild athletic therapist Don Fuller his head hurt and Fuller immediately got him off to the locker room.

There, Niederreiter waited for an Avs doctor to come check him out.

“I tried to get it checked out, and the doctor wasn’t ready, I guess,” Niederreiter said. “I was just sitting there and then all of a sudden the doctor showed up and told me he had to stitch up another guy (likely Gabriel Landeskog, who headed to the locker room for repair at one point), so he was late and told me he’s the only guy that can do the [head] exam.”

This is why the Wild was under the assumption there was one doctor at the game. The league says there were a minimum of three, so the question is why didn’t one of them come and check on Niederreiter OR why did one of them not stitch up Landeskog if there’s only one doctor that apparently can do the baseline test?

“You want to go back and can’t,” Niederreiter said. “It was more frustrating that he didn’t check me out right way. You never know what happens if the game goes to overtime or a shootout, who knows? There could have been plenty of time to get back.”

Kyle Brodziak returns to Minnesota for the first time tonight. He has a ton of friends in the Wild room, and as close friend Jared Spurgeon said, “It’ll be a bit different seeing him on the other side. We’re looking forward to battling it out.”

Brodziak, too, said it’ll be different and he’ll probably have some nerves and he’ll try to have fun with it. He didn’t know too many guys in the Blues room. He played junior hockey in Moose Jaw with Troy Brouwer and skates with Jay Bouwmeester during the summertime in Edmonton.

He ranks seventh all-time in Wild history with 446 games.

“I pretty much knew I was going to be moving on,” Brodziak said. “Talking with [GM Chuck Fletcher] and knowing the team’s cap situation, he pretty much said it was probably time for both sides to move on. … Over the past year or two, you start seeing the end coming near, so you start preparing yourself for a fresh start. That’s what I was doing. I was looking forward to it and enjoying it right now.”

I have gotten a ton of questions asking why on Earth the Wild would essentially replace Brodziak with Chris Porter, who’s not making a whole lot less than Brodziak’s 900K on a one-year deal.

I’d have to think if Fletcher thought he could have gotten Brodziak at that price, he would have made it happen. But July 1 offered Brodziak the chance to move on and test the open market and by that point the Wild made its decision that it too would move on and attempt to re-sign Chris Stewart. He ended up going to Anaheim and the Wild ultimately brought in Porter on waivers late in camp.

Because of the Wild’s cap situation, Fletcher has said he was waiting regardless on any free agent.

Brodziak found free agency tough like so many guys in the NHL affected by the cap going up marginally.

“In past years, being a UFA, was usually a good thing,” Brodziak said. “Guys go to the open market and have a number of teams to choose from. This year was different talking to a lot of guys. It turned out being a pretty slow couple of days.

“The end of day one, nothing had really happened besides kicking tires but not any real offers. There were teams saying, ‘Yeah, we might be interested,’ but until you get an actual offer, the nerves were definitely going up. But once St. Louis was interested, I was excited to be on a contender.”

As I have said a thousand times, the Wild will miss Brodziak. He was a pro’s pro, a great penalty killer, played Mike Yeo’s system to a T and always stood up for teammates.

As for the Blues, Yeo said, “I don’t think it was much of a rivalry before [beating St. Louis in the playoffs] because they just beat us for fun every time. As we’ve gotten more competitive, the rivalry has grown.

“It’s gotten to the point they understand we’re a pretty decent team, too. It makes for great hockey. We have a lot of respect for them.”

Said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, “I like the test when you play teams like Minnesota because they challenge every aspect of your game – special teams, your faceoffs, your team play. They’re a good test early in the year for us.”

Wild's Graovac 'very doubtful' for home opener

Update: The Wild recalled Jordan Schroeder tonight under emergency conditions. The thing is the team has an open roster spot, so my guess is this is Nino Niederreiter insurance. In other words, if Schroeder was just here to play for Graovac and over Justin Fontaine, they could just make that move and leave Fontaine on injured reserve. But if there's a chance Fontaine may be activated AND Niederreiter is a risk of not playing, it would need another player ... i.e. Schroeder.

So there is a chance Schroeder just turns around and returns to Iowa if Niederreiter's OK tomorrow and Fontaine is activated. We'll know after the morning skate. Right now, Schroeder doesn't count vs. the cap.

The Wild, fresh off its come-from-behind victory from three goals down against Colorado last night, practiced this afternoon at Xcel Energy Center in preparation for Saturday night's home opener against the Central Division foe St. Louis Blues.

Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes, Alex Steen, Alex Pietrangelo, ... Kyle Brodziak & gang will try to ruin the party.

Make sure you come down because the Wild then plays three road games in the next 11 days in yet another bizarre NHL-issued schedule to start the season. Its next home game is against Columbus on Oct. 22.

Afternoon from the arena press room, where I'm pounding the keyboard.

If you want a sneak peek at Saturday's very fun read on the odd couple that is the Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba friendship and defense tandem, check out the feature here.

If you didn't read the gamer and notebook from last night, check out

Last night's comeback win was the first time the Wild ever rallied from three goals down IN THE THIRD PERIOD ON THE ROAD in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Also, according to Elias, the Wild became the second team in NHL history and first since Hartford in 1986-87 to win its first game of the season by overcoming a three-goal, third-period deficit.

A reminder: Saturday, Jim Souhan and I will co-host our podcast at Tom Reid's in St. Paul at 4 p.m. Come on down and take part. The Wild's also having a pregame party outside the arena at 4 p.m.

One note on last night: There was a bunch of confusion as to when Patrick Roy took his timeout. I thought it was after the Zach Parise third goal and eventual winner, and so apparently did the broadcasters. But when he gathered his team, it was actually because the Wild hats were being cleaned off the Denver rink.

He actually took his timeout before pulling Semyon Varlamov around two minutes left.

As for Saturday, Brodziak, who ranks seventh all-time in Wild history with 446 games, is skating on a line with Ryan Reaves and Steve Ott. Chris Porter, who played 173 games for the Blues over parts of six seasons, will face his former team for the first time, too.

Porter is expected to skate on a line with Erik Haula and Ryan Carter.

The Wild did sustain one injury last night, and it's not Nino Niederreiter that I'm talking about. Niederreiter practiced today and is expected to play Saturday against the Blues (more on him in a bit).

Center Tyler Graovac, who experienced several spills on the ice last night, sustained a lower-body injury and is "very doubtful" to play the home opener, coach Mike Yeo said.

So, either Justin Fontaine (oblique) will have to make his season debut against St. Louis, the Wild would have to use seven defensemen and maybe play Nate Prosser at wing like it did today or maybe call up a forward like Zac Dalpe or Jordan Schroeder from the farm.

Yeo joked that Prosser had a smile on his face all practice today because he was scoring a bunch of goals at forward.

If Fontaine returns, Charlie Coyle looks like he would slide from right wing to center.

Yeo was noncommittal about Fontaine's availability. Fontaine said he would be ready if called upon.

Yeo said Niederreiter is fine and the "protocol last night means the player has to go off and has to get examined before he can return. They didn’t examine him until after the game."

This is a huge problem, the Wild's unhappy and has contacted the league. Yeo said basically if that game went to overtime last night, even if Niederreiter was healthy, Niederreiter wouldn't have been able to return because no doctor cleared him.

"It's out of my hands now," Yeo said. "I'm ready to move on."

Regardless, hopefully Niederreiter is really fine because he took some painful spills in practice and the team didn't make him available to the media postgame.

The Wild was told there was only one Avs doctor at the game. The NHL told me there was a minimum of three, which to me makes this even more inexcusable because, yes, at the same time Gabriel Landeskog was in Colorado's locker room, but where were the other two?

The league said it's looking into the "unusual delay."

Here's more Yeo today:

On playing the Blues for the first time since knocking them off last postseason: "Last year was last year. This is still a team that sets the bar. Regular season, they just come out of the gate. They know their game, they’re very well-coached and they’re a very deep team, so I think it would be a very big mistake on our part to think that we learned lessons and we’re in a good spot because of what happened last year. Tomorrow is a new challenge."

On the penalty kill giving up 2 goals: "Both goals were extremely easy. That’s not our MO as a penalty killing group. It was an easy faceoff and two easy passes and an easy entry. We’ve spent so much time focusing on our power play and talking about power play and working on power play and everything else, a lot of penalty killers are also power-play guys. So, next little awhile, a real heavy focus on our PK will be important too."

Mikko Koivu didn't practice today because of a maintenance day, but he says he's good to go.

Here are transcripts today from Brodziak (courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford) and Porter. I plan to write Brodziak for my game notebook Saturday for Sunday's paper.


Playing Minnesota?

I've thought about it a lot. It's exciting. Obviously spent some time there and made a lot of friendships. It'll be nice to go there and see the old teammates and the trainers that I built some pretty good friendships over the years. I'm looking forward to it. ... I'm expecting to be a little nervous. I'm just going to try and go in and have fun and play the game. Hopefully I can get a hit or do something good on the first shift and build off that."

Last year's series?

You look at the second half of the year, we were right up there with being one of the best teams in the league. I think as a group, we were confident coming in and we knew we had a game plan and we had to stick to it. If we did that, we would give ourselves an opportunity to win. At the time, obviously fortunately it worked out for us.

Close the door in Game 6?

I think it was Game 4 where we got blown out pretty bad. It was Game 5 that was a huge game in the series and once we were able to win that, we knew how critical it was to close it out in Game 6 because we didn't want to come back to St. Louis for Game 7. Fortunately, we were able to do that.

Opening night with Blues (hit post on shorthanded 2 on 1 rush)

"It was good. It was a good feeling to get the win for sure. There's some areas that I think individually and as a group, we need to clean up. Some habits that I played the same system for four years and I'm trying to work out some of those habits and get into building habits that this group plays with. Hopefully as the year goes on, it'll get easier and easier to do that."


Playing st. Louis?
I’ll be different. I have a lot of good friends on that team, but in the same sense it’s business as usual. Once the game starts, you kind of put that aside. I dealt with that in the playoffs last year against Zach. It’s part of the business.

Played with?
Ott and Reaves.

So Brodziak took your role?
Yeah he did. They’re a tough line to play against. They’re physical. I know what they’re all about and I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Avoid getting hit by Reaves?
No, I’d like to. Him and I battled in practice so there’d be nothing new there. He’s a big boy and a physical player.

Sense rivalry?
You could see it coming. Game after game, they were usually close. 2-1, 1-1 going into the third usually and it seemed to get really chippy usually. After playing them in the playoffs, it’s becoming a good rivalry.

Playoff series?
It was a close series. Every game was close minus the one game. They’re tight-checking games, you don’t want to give either team much space. They have offensive guys just like we do here. We tried to limit their time and spice but the Wild last year were obviously better than we were. And knowing them coming in, they’re going to try to take it to us and have a little revenge or whatever. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Weird joining the Wild after playoffs?

Definitely. You hope you didn’t make too many people mad with the style you played the year before. But that’s what’s great about hockey – a new guy comes in and everybody welcomes him and is happy to have them on the team. If they move away, you treat them as is. I don’t expect it to be anything different tomorrow.

We had a great close knit team like we do here. Everybody got along. It’ll be difficult but it’ll be fun at the same time.

Talk to them?
I haven’t. I’ll just leave it as is for Game 1 and hopefully we’ll win and go from there.

Wild debut?
It was nice. Practice is different from a game obviously. Games bring everyone closer and guys closer together. Last night was a great team win and a great third period.

Zach’s performance?
It was nice. Obviously a great player. I thought from top to bottom we got better as a team. He was the beneficiary last night but it might be somebody else tomorrow night. That’s what great teams do. They find ways to win and we did that last night.

That's it for me. In my secondary story in Saturday's paper, you'll hear from Porter, Koivu and Devan Dubnyk on playing the Blues for the first time since the April playoff series.

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