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Russo's Rants

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

Wild looks to stymie Connor McDavid and the Oilers; Zach Parise on top line

The Wild makes its first visit tonight to the brand-spanking new Rogers Place, which I gushed about on yesterday’s blog and got to watch the Oilers win in overtime here last night on a pretty Andrej Sekera to Leon Draisaitl goal.

As Oilers coach Todd McLellan even said to me, it had to be nice to sit and actually enjoy a game for a change and not have to work. And, that’s so true. It was weird actually getting to watch every second of an entire third period and overtime without my face being planted in my laptop for a file-at-the-gun gamer.

I’ll be interested to see how the very desperate Wild (0-1-2 on this five-game trip, 5-6-3 in its past 14) plays against a big, skilled, fast Oilers team that’s feeling mighty good about itself for a change. Usually by this time, as Bruce Boudreau said, the media’s telling them how bad they are and forecasting what type of lottery pick they’ll get (which four of the last seven years has been first overall).

“I think they’re one of the best teams in the league now,” Boudreau said. “I’ve watched them a lot, maybe because Connor McDavid’s fun to watch. They’ve got a bit of everything. They’re big and strong up front, … they can move the puck and Todd’s a good coach, so you add those things together and the fact they’ve had a taste of winning now, …”

I wrote about McDavid – the NHL’s leading scorer -- today, by the way, and you can read that Sunday column here. He may already be the best player in the NHL, and he could be hungry tonight now that his seven-game point streak ended last night.

Boudreau said, sarcastically, that McDavid may be a focal point of the Wild's pregame video.

I’ll also be interested to see how the Wild plays in this sparkling new arena because it certainly loved playing at the old Rexall Place. Want to hear a crazy stat? Before I was the Wild beat writer, the Wild was 2-4-5 (three of those were ties) in Edmonton. In my 12 seasons covering the team, the Wild was 20-8-2 at the Rex, including 11-1 in its last 12 games there with a 38-17 goal advantage. Only three of those 12 games were one-goal games, so the Wild not only usually won at the Rex, it won big.

So, we’ll see if the Wild lost its mojo with the Oilers’ move to downtown.

Same Oilers lineup as last night. I tweeted the lines if you want to look there. Same Wild lines, meaning first through third lines the same as recent games and Kurtis Gabriel (three hits in 7-plus minutes last game) again playing the right side of Chris Stewart and Tyler Graovac. Zack Mitchell and Gustav Olofsson are the scratches for a second straight game.

Boudreau better be careful with the fourth line tonight. I'd probably only play them on the fly and IMMEDIATELY AFTER McDavid plays a shift, but that's me.

Devan Dubnyk vs. Jonas Gustavsson tonight. Cam Talbot played last night against the Ducks, and, quite frankly, was awesome.

Gustavsson is 1-1 in four games this season with a 2.04 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. In four starts against Minnesota, he’s 3-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Dubnyk, the former Oiler, is 3-1 with a 1.51 GAA and .928 SV% in four games since joining the Wild, including 2-0 in Edmonton with a 0.50 GAA, .974 SV% and one shutout.

This season, Dubnyk leads all NHL goalies with four shutouts and ranks second in SV% (.945) to Carey Price (.946 before his game this afternoon) and GAA (1.67) to Tuukka Rask’s 1.60.

In the past 14 games, he has given up 20 goals. Take out the three shutouts, and those 20 goals have come in the last 11 games. Why do I say it like that?

Because he’s 4-5-2 in that span.

Check this out: Despite Dubnyk’s impressive stats, Price has four more wins than Dubnyk’s nine (tied for 14th in the NHL) in large part because the Wild’s offense has dried up since a 32-goal, first nine games.

In Dubnyk’s six regulation losses this season, he allowed 13 goals yet got seven goals of support. In his three overtime/shootout losses, he had given up seven goals yet got six goals of support.

Wild need to start rewarding its goalie for his outstanding performances, or he will crack at some point mentally in my opinion.

“He sure has given our players faith,” Boudreau said. “He’s played as well – touch wood – as any goalie in the NHL this year so far. When he’s out there, it seems every time he’s played, he steals us a game or a point at least. And he is calm. You don’t see him panicking, and that affects the whole team.”

When a reporter said, “They’re not afraid to make a mistake maybe,” Boudreau interrupted, “And we make a lot.”

Hey, but at least they’re not afraid to make mistakes!

I chatted with Zach Parise today, and he survived that painful blocked shot from the first period. He said Boudreau’s meeting with the top line yesterday should be very beneficial after two poor games in a row.

“I think it was very productive,” Parise said. “It’s easy to leave a game and be mad and frustrated, but I think it was good for us to look at it and see the reasons, ‘Why don’t we have the puck? Why are we not getting the puck back? Why aren’t we getting any scoring chances?’ It’s not as if we just [stink] all of a sudden. There’s reasons behind things. So, I think watching the tape, there were probably two or three things that we consistently did that didn’t allow us to get the puck the entire game [in Calgary]. So, if we fix those things, at least give yourself a chance to get the puck back, at least give yourself a chance to get the puck in the offensive zone or get the puck up the ice clean, then all of a sudden you get in the zone and you have zone time and you feel good about hockey again. It’s a quick fix. It’s not, like I said, you don’t forget how to play. Us as a line, we have to rely on each other to do and expect the other guy to do their job. And if they’re not doing their job, the forecheck’s not going to work and we’re going to backcheck. That’s what we’ve been doing a lot of lately, so it was good to see it and it was good for us to talk about it and recognize it.”

Talk tonight. I’ll be on CHED here in Edmonton at 7:45 p.m. CT.

Boudreau says Parise is "fine," meets with members of top line

Good evening from Edmonton, where I’ll get to watch Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks tonight.

In an anomaly, for the second time on this crazily lengthy road trip that has two days between St. Louis and Vancouver, two days between Vancouver and Calgary and two days between Edmonton and Toronto, we’re in a city where the team the Wild eventually plays is hosting another team while we’re in town.

In Calgary, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now in Edmonton, the Ducks are here.

It’s kind of awkward for Bruce Boudreau considering the Ducks let him go in late April after a Game 7 loss to Nashville.

Luckily for him, the Wild and Ducks are not staying at the same hotel.

But, with the Ducks playing tonight and residing in the NHL visitors’ room at the sparkling, new Rogers Place, the Wild had the Western Hockey League visitors’ room, which is nicer than many visitor rooms in the NHL.

So, Boudreau’s Wild media backdrop was just around the corner from the Ducks room and the Ducks backdrop.

“It is a little weird,” Boudreau said. “Walking in here, I was a little nervous whether I saw players or coaches, but it was nice that four or five players all came up and were really nice to me.”
Boudreau decided not to attend the game as not to be a distraction.”

Shooting the breeze with him later, Boudreau said, “It’s like running into an ex-girlfriend. You’re wondering if you’re still friends.”

Boudreau will watch the game on TV. He was toying with the idea of going, but it’s an 8 p.m. local start, and that’s too late for the coach. Plus, he doesn’t want to be a distraction.

By the way, and most Wild fans know, I loved the old Rexall Place. Best press box sightlines in the NHL, so I’ll miss that.

But this new Oilers arena is gorgeous and I’m looking forward to taking in tonight’s game, although I hear the press box is high and back. Plus, there’s a casino attached to the arena!

Today, the Wild had a very optional practice at the practice rink attached to the arena (like Columbus and New Jersey have).

Most the big-minute players didn’t practice. Those guys either had the day off, had meetings, got treatment or just worked out off the ice.

One day after saying he planned to talk to the trainers to make sure Zach Parise is healthy,  Boudreau said Parise is “fine.”

Boudreau, who called Parise’s skating sluggish and methodical after a shootout loss to Calgary, said Parise was probably laboring after blocking a first-period shot.

The Parise-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle line followed a tough game in Vancouver with an even tougher game in Calgary. The line combined for no points and two even-strength shots, although Chris Stewart scored while extending his shift into Staal’s and Coyle’s early in the game.

Boudreau met with Parise and Coyle for almost an hour Saturday afternoon, and he planned to meet with Staal on Saturday night (Staal's brother-in-law is in town, so Boudreau gave him the day off).

The coach went over their shifts on video to “see what we can do better, what we can do in different situations, where it’s not working, where it’s working. … There were two factors we found that I won’t get into that if they do [Sunday], I think it’ll be much better,” Boudreau said.

Boudreau said when he watched the video, it’s not as bad as he thought watching it live. He also likes to get the players’ point of views because they’re always trying to do the right thing even when wrong things happen, he said.

Parise’s a prideful guy, so I asked if he talked to Parise why he didn’t use him in overtime or the shootout. He didn’t, although Boudreau feels he explained his reasons in his postgame with us.

He says he wasn’t punishing Parise or Mikko Koivu, saying he would have used Koivu next if Coyle had tied the shootout and he was saving Koivu for the win. He said if the Wild had shot first, Koivu probably would have been in Round 3. As for using Nino Niederreiter to open the shootout, he said when Mikael Granlund went fourth in St. Louis, it was between Granlund and Niederreiter, so that’s why he decided to try Niederreiter to start.

As for the 0-1-2 trip so far (0-1-1 this week), Boudreau, who you know goes in week to week segments, said, “If we win [Sunday], then we would have lost one game in regulation in the last seven, and I think most teams would take that percentage. If we win, we tie the week and we’ve got a chance to win the five-game road trip with a win in Toronto.”

Talk in the morning, although you know my Twitter happy fingers will probably be tweeting away from the Ducks-Oilers game.

Ohhhhhhhhhhh, I have a real colorful story on Boudreau in the works for Tuesday’s paper, so make sure to check out that feature.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    2 pm

  • Wild at Edmonton

    8:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • NJIT at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • San Antonio at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, NBATV, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at New Mexico

    8 pm on 88.5-FM

  • Wild at Toronto

    6:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Toronto

    6 pm on TNT, 830-AM

  • Army at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    6 pm

  • Edmonton at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Georgia Southern at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    2 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Vikings at Jacksonville

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Gophers women's basketball at South Carolina

    2 pm on SECN, 88.5-FM

  • Northern Illinois at Gophers men's basketball

    4 pm on 1500-AM

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Today's Scoreboard

No MLB games today

  • Detroit

    New Orleans


    - F



  • Houston

    Green Bay


    - F



  • San Francisco



    - F



  • Kansas City



    - F



  • Los Angeles

    New England


    - F



  • Denver



    - F



  • Philadelphia



    - F



  • Miami



    - F



  • Buffalo



    - 2nd, 0:30



  • Tampa Bay

    San Diego


    - 2nd, 8:56



  • Washington



    - 2nd, 7:04



  • NY Giants



    - 2nd, 7:10



  • Carolina


    7:30 PM


  • Orlando


    5:00 PM

  • New Orleans

    Oklahoma City

    6:00 PM


  • Sacramento

    New York

    6:30 PM

  • Indiana

    LA Clippers

    8:30 PM

  • Montreal

    Los Angeles


    - 3rd, 8:50



  • Tampa Bay



    - 1st, 9:20



  • Philadelphia


    5:00 PM

  • Detroit

    NY Islanders

    5:00 PM

  • Winnipeg


    6:00 PM

  • Anaheim


    8:30 PM

  • Minnesota


    8:30 PM


No MLS games today