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Russo's Rants

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

Wild-Avalanche open season tonight; post-skate notes


Something’s got to give tonight!!!

The Wild, which shut out Colorado in consecutive home and away games to open last season, and Avalanche have the two highest season-opener point percentages in NHL history (.643).

The Wild is 8-4-2, the Avs are 19-9-7.

The Avs are 11-4-3 when opening a season at home, the Wild 0-3-1 when opening a season on the road.

The Wild is 15-3-3 in its past 21 regular-season games in Denver, holding the Avalanche to two or fewer goals in 15 of those games. The Wild took four of five from the Avalanche last season, including three via shutout.

It led to some, let's call it, public trash-talking (Zach Parise being the funniest: "I'd probably be frustrated too if you play a team and haven't scored on them in four games except on a dump-in.") after Cody McLeod jumped Mikael Granlund and fought Charlie Coyle late in a game.

McLeod got things started yesterday by taking some jabs at the Wild, so tonight should be an interesting start to the Wild season.

The Wild started 2-0 last year, had five days off and by the time they next played, it was in ninth because teams had played so many more games. The Wild has a similar schedule this season, playing at home Saturday vs. St. Louis, then not playing again until Arizona on Thursday to start a three-game trip that ends in So. Cal.

So, the Wild wants to do its best to get four points these opening three days.

The Avalanche oddly won't hold a morning skate today. The Wild will, and the lines are exactly what has been reported for a week (see below link). I'll update the blog later if anything interesting comes out of it, but after three weeks of camp and a week between the last exhibition game and tonight, really, what else can be said?

Let's drop the puck!

Couple notes from after the skate:

1. Yeo: "We're definitely ready. It's been a long camp and it's nice to finally drop the puck."

2. Yeo said he has talked to Niklas Backstrom and told him he really doesn't know how it's going to go. Darcy Kuemper will be backup the first two games, and then they'll decide what to do after that. "There's a third guy that can't just be left off to the side. We have to make sure we're keeping everybody sharp and involved. We don't have a long-term plan right now."

3. Yeo on Justin Fontaine: "He's coming along. He's missed a lot of camp and his conditioning is not where it needs to be. We'll get him there quickly. I would expect him to not be in the lineup on Saturday."

4. Yeo said the PK forwards will change from game to game, from situation to situation (where faceoffs are, who's in the box). Like if there's a faceoff in the right circle, maybe Charlie Coyle goes out there with a forward he normally wouldn't be out there with. I'd suspect we'll see Coyle, Erik Haula, Ryan Carter, Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, and at times periodically Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. Chris Porter will also get PK time, but since he didn't get a lot of camp with the Wild, it may not be tonight. Also, they have been working with rookie Tyler Graovac and want to slowly work him in because Yeo likes to play every player on at least specialty team. But early in the season, maybe it's sporadic with Graovac. Yeo said he definitely wants at least one forward on the ice at all times that was a penalty killer last year.

I'll also be holding a live chat at today at 3 p.m. CT, will be on KFAN at 4:15 p.m. and on Saturday will be co-hosting my podcast with Jim Souhan at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub in St. Paul at 4 p.m. If you're coming to the home opener, please come down early and join us.

If you missed today's Star Tribune preview, here are the links:

Mikko Koivu opens up like never before (please give this one a read)

Mikko Koivu info charticle

Koivu photo gallery, which includes family portrait and his chilling glare

My reader friendly (industry term) way of giving the 5 keys of the season. Check out the article

The Wild's projected opening-night lines

Rachel Blount's notebook on the Wild's weird schedule to start the season and a touching Tyler Graovac note

Patrick Reusse's column on the honeymoon

Also, I know many fans don't tune into the Wild until the season starts, but if you've missed our coverage the past two or three weeks, you may want to go back in the archives and give some of the stories a read. There have been some cool features, especially on guys like Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Thomas Vanek, Tyler Graovac, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter turning the page from a painful, heartbreaking season a year ago, etc., etc.

Talk to ya tonight.


Ready, set, go: Wild eager to start season Thursday

Wild coach Mike Yeo didn't try to sugarcoat things Wednesday. "Training camp is long,'' he said, after his team wrapped up camp with a workout at Ridder Arena. "You put a lot of work in. You get sick of practice. You just want to get going.''

The Wild got going to Colorado on Wednesday afternoon, flying to Denver for Thursday's season opener against the Avalanche. It will start the season on the road for only the fifth time in franchise history. A victory would be its first in a season opener on the road; it is 0-3-1 when starting away from Xcel Energy Center. But it is 3-0-0 against the Avs in season openers and 3-0-1 in its opening games over the past four seasons.

Much of the talk Wednesday centered on the importance of a strong start. The Wild got one last year--going 7-3 in its first 10 games, with each of the losses by a single goal--before a streaky November started digging the hole they would have to climb out of to make the playoffs. Whatever happens this year, Yeo said, his team must take the long view.

"A quick start is always nice,'' he said. "But at the same time, you have to make sure you keep your head in it. We have nothing else in mind than to get out there and try to win as many games as possible. But if you lose one or two, you also can't let that unravel you. It's an 82-game schedule. You want to get off to a quick start, but you have to make sure you just focus on the small picture day to day and what you have to do to either be better than the last game or get focused for the next one.''

As expected, Jordan Schroeder was assigned to Iowa after clearing waivers Wednesday. All 23 players on the roster--including Justin Fontaine, who is on injured reserve with an oblique injury--skated in a high-energy practice.

Other notes:

--Interesting answer from defenseman Ryan Suter when asked if he feels more urgency this season, given that he will turn 31 in January. "This summer, I really felt it a lot,'' he said. "Time's running out. I have 10 years on my contract, but the group we have right now is a group that is capable of winning, and we need to take that next step in the near future.''

--After Thursday's game at Colorado, the Wild comes home to play St. Louis on Saturday and then has a five-day break before the next game at Arizona. It already has had a significant layoff; its last preseason game was seven days ago.

"That's something that's challenging,'' Yeo said. "Especially after coming off a long training camp, you finally get a couple games, and then we're going to have to wait around a little bit. But many of the teams have to deal with the same type of schedule. Certainly there are no excuses on our part.''

Suter had a slightly different take. "It's just like college,'' he said.

--Yeo said the Wild's familiarity with each other, and with the team's systems, allowed him to be more detailed in training camp. Because he didn't have to spend much time teaching the basics, the players could work on timing, conditioning and other facets of the game. 

--Fox Sports North will have a one-hour pregame show Thursday beginning at 7 p.m. NBC Sports Network will televise the game, and FSN will also do a postgame show.

--Assistant coach Darryl Sydor has completed his substance-abuse treatment and is back in the Twin CIties, though he still is on leave from the team.



TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Wild at Colorado

    8pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Lynx at Indiana

    7pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey


  • 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

  • Lynx at Indiana

    7:30pm on ESPN, 106.1-FM

  • Timberwolves at Toronto (preseason)

    6:30pm on 830-AM

  • Timberwolves vs. Toronto (preseason)

    6pm on 830-AM

  • Wild at Phoenix

    9pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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Today's Scoreboard

  • Texas



    - F



  • Houston

    Kansas City


    - Bot 8th



  • Indianapolis



    - 4th, 3:25



  • Winnipeg



    - F



  • Ottawa



    - F



  • Philadelphia

    Tampa Bay


    - F



  • Carolina



    - F



  • Edmonton

    St. Louis


    - F



  • Pittsburgh



    - 3rd, 2:45



  • Minnesota



    - 3rd, 16:40



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