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

Beating Chicago would give Wild the most points in the NHL

Today's the one-year anniversary of John Torchetti's "home" debut against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The home debut came at TCF Bank Stadium, of course, in a 6-1 pounding of the Hawks.

Amazing how much is different with the Wild since.

Tonight, the Western Conference-leading Wild looks to move nine points up on the Hawks in the Central Division with a game in hand. By the time the Wild comes out of its bye Monday against Los Angeles, the Wild will have three games in hand.

So, the Wild, idle for awhile after tonight, would love to create some bigtime separation tonight on the Hawks rather than see that seven-point lead trimmed to five.

Certainly will be a playoff atmosphere tonight, and you get the Hawks will be up for it.

Good morning from Xcel Energy Center, where Devan Dubnyk faces, we assume, Corey Crawford tonight.

Matt Dumba is expected to return for the Wild, meaning Christian Folin and Nate Prosser would be the two scratches. Forward lines on yesterday's blog.

Bruce Boudreau expects a solid game from his team tonight before many of his players get out of dodge tomorrow. Mexico, Jamaica, Florida, Turks are some of the fun spots players are destined. Many of the married guys with kids are sticking around town.

Asked if he's looking forward to the bye, Boudreau said, "No. No. I've got nothing to do."

The delivery was perfecto.

A Wild victory, and it’ll at least temporarily have the most wins and points in the NHL. I say temporarily because the Caps would certainly jump back ahead during Minnesota's bye.

The Wild can become the first team with 40 wins and 86 points, which would be one short of last season’s 82-game total.

The Wild, 4-1-1 on its eight-game homestand, looks to make the record 17-6 of teams entering their bye.

The Wild has a nine-game point streak (8-0-1) against Chicago, but the lone loss came in overtime Feb. 8 in St. Paul. The Hawks have won six in a row on the road.

The Wild’s 14-4-3 against the Central Division after having 14 wins vs. the Central all of last season.

Devan Dubnyk is 8-0 with a .949 save percentage in the regular season against the Blackhawks with Minnesota. Jason Pominville has 19 points in the past 15 games. Since becoming a line Nov. 25, Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund have a combined 43 goals, 67 assists and 110 points and are plus-84.

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who led the NHL in scoring last season and was called a "little waterbug" in affectionate terms by Boudreau today," is tied for fifth with 60 points. He has 15 goals and 33 points in 38 games vs. Minnesota. Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa are tied for the team lead with 21 goals. Jonathan Toews, who scored the overtime winner against Minnesota two weeks ago, has 32 points in 34 games vs. the Wild.

Some other tidbits: The Wild leads the NHL with six players with at least 40 points. … Minnesota’s plus-62 goal differential ranks second in the NHL and is nearly triple the next-best goal differential in the Western Conference (San Jose, plus-22). … The Wild also leads the Western Conference with 195 goals scored and 3.36 goals per game.

Tomorrow's game notebook?

A real interesting conversation I had with Zach Parise about the fact it seems refs often let him get mugged in games. Parise is beyond professional about his take on the whole thing.

Also, as part of my conversation the other day with Vegas GM George McPhee (hopefully you read my Sunday column), he raved about the job Boudreau is doing here. I'll have those thoughts from Boudreau's old Caps boss in tomorrow's paper.

I'll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission tonight talking trade deadline mostly, and remember, last Russo-Souhan Show before the trade deadline is tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Hell's Kitchen. Please come by, but make a reservation.

Wild's Dumba might return Tuesday; Boudreau on Graovac's recall

The Wild practiced at Ridder Arena this morning, and here are the updates.

1) The lines and D pairs I guessed on the previous blog came into fruition:

Niederreiter-Staal-Coyle

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund

Parise-Haula-Pominville

Stewart-Graovac-Schroeder

Suter-Spurgeon

Olofsson-Brodin

Scandella-Dumba

Prosser-Folin

The fourth pair indicates the scratches if Matt Dumba can return from injury Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Coach Bruce Boudreau said the medical staff will decide if Dumba's injury is such that he can play Tuesday or if another six days off would be smarter (remember, the Wild's five-day bye begins Wednesday).

Boudreau said he was "really pleasantly surprised" by Brodin's game against Nashville. "I didn’t know what to expect after 14 games missed. I didn’t know if it would take time to get going or how apprehensive he felt about shooting the puck and getting involved."

But Boudreau liked the way he played with Olofsson, so as I indicated this morning, it would make sense to keep Olofsson, who played 19 1/2 minutes against the Preds, in the lineup and take Folin out. Folin was minus-2 against Nashville (one goal was hardly his fault) and the Hawks aren't an agitating the team the way Nashville is.

2) Graovac. Definitely seems to be a disconnect here. Graovac said he got little feedback from the team when he was placed on waivers, was left in the dark and he was shocked.

As I've mentioned before, Boudreau seems to be at his wit's end with Graovac and his play, but wanting to play Erik Haula in an elevated role against Chicago, Graovac is the next center on the depth chart if Haula's going to center the third line.

Boudreau said, "We sat out [Jordan] Schroeder two games ago and he's come back and played two really strong games. So getting sent down and being recalled hopefully that will push a button for him to play like he did for the first 10 games when he was up."

Graovac said, "I think with any professional athlete no one is really that good without their confidence. You see anybody on this team, when they have confidence, they do really well. That was a big thing going down to Iowa. To get some confidence back and try and build moving forward."

On being put on waivers, Graovac said, "Yeah, I was shocked. I was shocked. There wasn't much reason for it. There wasn't much feedback to be honest. I was kind of left a little bit in the dark. You go with it. I'm just here to do the best I can and be as professional as I can. I look forward to tomorrow."

On if he feels he has to prove he's deserving of this spot to keep the Wild from acquiring a forward at next Wednesday's trade deadline, Graovac said, "It's trying to create my own personal bubble right now. I think that's the biggest thing for everybody moving forward toward the playoffs. Obviously I want to go out there and prove to him that he can trust me in situations if I'm put in them. I don't know what the plan is. They haven't told me anything. It's just staying in that bubble and being the best Tyler Graovac that I can be. Especially tomorrow.

"I don't know if this is part of the process or not. I know Bruce is very old school in a way. He's told me as a younger guy that they all go through this. My main goal right now is to be the best player I can be. I'm definitely going to be a little more aggressive tomorrow."

A week ago, Boudreau indicated he didn't feel comfortable putting Graovac on the ice in defensive-zone roles against top lines. I asked Boudreau if he has to talk to Graovac about that, and he said, "Quite frankly, ... I will talk to him. But I shouldn't have to talk to him about anything. If I'm a guy getting called up I want to be good in all three zones, I want to be physical, I want to score, I want to do it all. I'm sure he wants to prove a point that he belongs here full time. That's what we're hoping for."

3) On Alex Tuch, sent back to Iowa yesterday, Boudreau said after reviewing his ice time deployment against Nashville, he realized it wasn't fair to Tuch to only play him 7:33 and that if he continued to only feel he could play him that little, it would be putting the kid in a "position to fail rather than a position to succeed" and his confidence would dip in a hurry."

So, get him back to Iowa where he can play in a big role.

That's it for now. Tuesday's article is a more detailed look at what I was talking about on my previous blog.

I'll be on KFAN Tuesday morning at 9:35 a.m. and on Fox Sports North Tuesday night.

Next Russo-Souhan Show is at Hell's Kitchen at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Last show before the trade deadline, so please join us.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Chicago at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Minnesota United FC at Toronto FC (preseason)

    2 pm

  • Gophers men's basketball at Maryland

    7:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Purdue at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    6:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Dallas at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, ESPN, 830-AM

  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Penn State at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Timberwolves at Houston

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Maryland

    11 am on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC vs. San Antonio

    11:30 am

  • Washington at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Miami at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Los Angeles at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wild at Winnipeg

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

No MLB games today

No NFL games today

No NBA games today

  • Pittsburgh

    Carolina

     

    - F

    3

    1

  • Ottawa

    New Jersey

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • Montreal

    NY Rangers

     

    - F

    3

    2

  • NY Islanders

    Detroit

     

    - F

    3

    1

  • Edmonton

    Tampa Bay

     

    - F

    1

    4

  • Winnipeg

    Toronto

     

    - F

    4

    5

  • Chicago

    Minnesota

     

    - F

    5

    3

  • Calgary

    Nashville

     

    - F

    6

    5

  • Los Angeles

    Colorado

     

    - F

    2

    1

No MLS games today