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Russo's Rants

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

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.

Parise notches hat trick; Wild scores four fastest goals in team history

How do you explain tonight?

For two periods, the Wild was getting pushed around, was uncharacteristically soft in its own zone and leaky on the penalty kill.

Devan Dubnyk was fighting the puck and offensively, the Wild had trouble getting pucks to the intended target of Semyon Varlamov because the Avalanche was so aggressive at challenging and getting in shooting lanes.

But the game turned incredibly in Minnesota’s favor in the third period when the Wild didn’t just mount a four-goal comeback from three goals down, it did so in a ridiculous, snap-your-fingers-like span of 5 minutes, 7 seconds. That’s the fastest four goals the Wild has ever scored.

You could just feel momentum shift. When Zach Parise made it 4-2, I said to my colleague to buckle up. When Nino Niederreiter made it 4-3, I said to my colleague, “It’s just a matter of time now. Rewrite.”

It was just so obvious. The Avs were in full-swing panic mode and just pinned its own zone for the first 10 minutes of the period.

Crazy night at the Pepsi Center, where the Wild took a 5-4 victory in regulation despite being down 4-1 after two periods and having my Twitter feed erupt with anger and angst and anxiety from ticked-off Wild fans. It was the first time the Wild rallied from three goals down to win on the road since March 5, 2009 (I think Mikko Koivu overtime winner where Brent Burns almost killed him with a leap).

On this night, Parise hoisted the Wild onto his shoulders by scoring twice in the third period, including the winner, to notch his third career hat trick and first with the Wild. It was the 19th Wild hat trick done by 11 different players).

It was the second Wild hat trick on Opening Night. The first came in my first-ever game as a Wild beat writer (Marc Chouinard in 2005, 6-3 win over Calgary, I think. Remember him?). Parise now has six points in the past two season-openers for the Avs.

Thomas Vanek tied the score 56 seconds before Parise’s goal and Nino Niederreiter scored 2:13 before that.

Maybe bad news on Niederreiter. He left the game in the third period when he slammed into the wall in the Avs end. He tried to check Matt Duchene, the Avs forward ducked out of the way and Niederreiter crashed.

Yeo didn’t have an update on Niederreiter after and was unhappy the Avs, according to him, had one doctor at the game as opposed to, say, the several the Wild always had. That doctor apparently didn’t come to examine Niederreiter during the game as is protocol. In the NHL, the home team is tasked with providing doctors. Some teams travel their own doctors. Most don’t (not so much cost as all team doctors have private practices). The Wild typically travels one of its team doctors late in the season and in the playoffs.

Just an impressive comeback all around.

Parise absolutely encapsulated himself as a player on his second goal to begin the comeback in the third. Relentlessly forechecking, Parise circled out of the corner and ran into the brick wall that was Gabriel Landeskog.

Parise fell to the ice, bounced up like it was nothing and went to the net. Matt Dumba’s shot got caught up in Nathan MacKinnon’s gear, Jason Pominville pushed the puck to Parise and Parise roofed it from the side of the top of the goalmouth.

“That’s what we’ve come to know with Zach,” coach Mike Yeo said. “We use the word relentless an awful lot. I think that was a great example of that.”

Said Patrick Roy, “All of a sudden, they score that second goal and the momentum shifted. We just couldn't stop it.”

On Niederreiter’s goal, the linesman waved off an icing at the red line feeling Erik Johnson could have played a Wild clear. Jason Zucker hustled into the zone, and after a forecheck by Zucker and Niederreiter, Niederreiter made it 4-3. Roy was fuming with the linesman afterward.

The tying goal was awesome. Charlie Coyle had one of the most impressive shifts I’ve ever seen him. He was so good, he didn’t even get a +1 because he was on the bench.

From behind as Duchene came out of the Colorado end, Coyle muscled Duchene off the puck, took the puck, sprung it ahead for Mikael Granlund and went for a change. Granlund fed Vanek and Vanek banked a shot off the right post and in.

Finally, on the power play, Koivu made a good play coming into the zone and then bumped it back to the point. Parise and Ryan Suter played catch with the puck, and just like they’ve drawn it up, Suter fed it back for a Parise one-timer and winning goal. Parise had a classic fist pump on his knee and then fly-by of the bench.

Roy called timeout. Why did he wait so long? Very good reason, actually.

“I was thinking about it, I won't lie to you,” Roy said. “My only problem is if I use the timeout I lose my challenge. If something happens, and it's a goal and we cannot make any challenge, that's the reason why I didn't do it.”

Parise said the game was “fun, entertaining and rewarding for us to play better in the third period and sneak out of here with a win.”

Vanek and Dubnyk said the leadership and Yeo stepped to the forefront big time between the second and third and said all the right things.

“The message was just, ‘Let’s start playing how we’re capable, and whether we come out of this win or not, let’s play a good period here and at least feel good about heading into our home opener,” Parise said. “You never expect to go in on the road and put in four in the third and get away with a win, but we could see the good things that we did to pay off.”

Parise added, “We’ve had some pretty fun, entertaining games against these guys. It’s a really good team. They’re fast and they’re skilled. It was two really good teams playing tonight. It was entertaining. It was fun.”

The Wild played an even first 10 minutes with the Avs, but Dubnyk looked to be fighting things and the Wild’s defense was soft. Parise hit the post on a breakaway, and then things began to unravel.

Of all players, Jonas Brodin, who had a tough first two periods, took a penalty (he had four last year) and 13 seconds later, of course, Jarome Iginla, the ultimate Wild killer with 38 goals and 70 points, scored.

Then, after the refs let Parise get accosted, Varlamov stopped Koivu and Zucker and Koivu began reaching for the puck and ultimately closed his hand on that puck while fallen on the ice.

Erik Johnson let her rip for a 2-0 lead. Then, the third line and Dumba and Brodin got trapped and Landeskog scored.

Yeo said, “We weren’t on for sure. It looked a lot like the type of game you play after a weeklong break after playing a couple very, hate to say, easy exhibition games. We pretty much sleptwalked through the first two periods.”

Yeo said, “Once they got up, it seemed like they really tried to run at us and that woke our guys up a little.”

After two periods, the Wild was getting outhit 20-5. It was 25-16 by game’s end. The Wild also out-attempted Colorado on shots 75-48. The Avs did a great job getting in shooting lanes and forcing the Wild to either try to put it through them or intentionally wide of them.

The Wild had 29 shots blocked and 16 that missed the net.

The Avs had five shots in the third period.

Yeo said of Parise, “What can you say? That’s what you need. A team like that is going to try to push us around and that’s not our style to drop the gloves and try to fight people. But we’re a team that competes and never gives up and we’ve got a relentless work ethic and he showed that tonight.”
Yeo said, “We have to make sure we’re not giving up four a game. That’s not our game. We have a lot of work to do. It was a bit of a wakeup call for us as far as how we prepare for our next game.”

That next game is Saturday against St. Louis, the team the Wild dispatched in the first round last year. Reminder, I’ll be co-hosting my podcast with Jim Souhan at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid’s. The Wild’s also having a pregame party outside the X at the same time.

Pominville had two assists and was plus-3 and Granlund had two assists and was plus-3. I mentioned Dumba and Brodin, and how they had a tough night. Dumba went up to Brodin after and said, “That’s not the way to start. We’ll be better.”

I’m writing a really fun, fun feature on them for Saturday’s paper, so please pick that up.

The Wild is now 9-4-2 in season openers and 1-3-1 in openers on the road. Yeo is 4-0-1 in season openers.

That’s it for me. I have a wakeup call in four hours, so I’m out of here. I’ll talk to you after practice, and on Twitter with hopefully some Niederreiter news. Kyle Brodziak and the Blues coming to town next!

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Gophers football at Purdue

    2:30pm on ESPN, 100.3-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey


  • Timberwolves vs. Chicago (preseason)

    6pm on NBATV, 830-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

    7pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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    6:30pm on 830-AM

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  • Minnesota Duluth at Gophers men's hockey

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  • Gophers women's hockey at Ohio State


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