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Russo's Rants

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

Postgame: Wild need to build on solid road win in Chicago

It’s only one win, a 2-1 victory here tonight at the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks, but there were some good signs that the Wild needs to try to build on as it returns home for a brief two-game homestand against Toronto and Colorado before hitting the road again for three.

1. As Mike Yeo has been almost begging for recently, the Wild stayed patient in its game tonight. Even at times when it was maddeningly inefficient offensively despite having the better of the chances, despite a power play (more on the power play below) that could have destroyed momentum and confidence, the Wild defended well throughout tonight’s contest, was better with the puck and got solid goaltending from Devan Dubnyk.

2. The Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line spent much of the night with the puck and in the offensive zone. Parise was still working off the rust and did turn the puck over a few times, but it was Parise who sent Granlund in alone before Ryan Suter’s winning goal with 7:56 left.

Pominville, who went 21 games without a goal until snapping the drought Saturday, scored for a second straight game, too. He had six shots and the three forwards combined for 15 of the Wild’s 36 as the Wild outshot an opponent on the road for the first time in five games. The trio combined for 22 shots attempts.

Granlund had two assists and now has 10 points in the past 10 games.

“Our line was supporting each other better all over the ice,” Pominville said. “That’s more the way we need to play offensively, but the way we defended was way better and we didn’t give up as much and that led to us having the puck a lot more.”

On his goal, a wraparound on a Granlund rebound in the first period, Pominville said it was the type of goal that “probably wouldn’t have went in” during his long, miserable slump, “but it’s the way this game goes. You get one and you’re confidence gets a little bit higher. I just played a better game overall. I don’t know if it’s because of the goal [Saturday] or not, but it felt good to get the first one and not have to worry about it anymore.”

The updated game story, which will be up on later, is mostly about the Suter winning goal coming one day after his outspoken comments regarding the defense pairs Monday and his desire to play with a righty, namely Jared Spurgeon.

Assistant coach Rick Wilson smartly mixed it up tonight, and Suter played with both Jonas Brodin but mostly with Spurgeon, especially for offensive zone draws. I think Wilson made the move to get Suter and Spurgeon back together semi-permanently after Brodin in the second period had a tough time keeping a puck in the offensive zone on his off side.

Coach Mike Yeo said this morning this would be the plan, that Suter could very well end up playing a lot of shifts with Spurgeon depending on what transpired in the game.

After the game, because Suter scored the winner, us media wretches flooded his stall. He laughed and said, “You guys are killing me. I hate this.”

Suter’s comments from Monday has caused a lot of ribbing in the locker room and apparently was the talk on the team plane as players flew to Chicago on Monday. As we interviewed Suter, Parise yelled over and asked reporters to hold their mics and recorders in their right hands.

Afterward, Parise said, “It’s all in good fun.”

When I asked Suter about playing with Spurgeon a lot tonight, he said kiddingly, “No comment,” then said, “They mixed us up. I understand what they were trying to do and it worked out.”

On the win, Suter said, “We hadn’t played well. We hadn’t played consistent in a long time, and now we finally put a game together. Now we have to build on it. We can’t take a step back. Everyone’s getting better. We have to get better. … We finally got everybody going in the right direction.”

Devan Dubnyk was superb. He made 30 saves and was only beaten by a flubbed shot from Patrick Kane. Only the NHL leading scorer and a guy with points in 20 straight could score on a shot like that. But Dubnyk was real good, made clutch saves throughout and brushed off a sore neck sustained in the final seconds of the first period.

“It’s huge to get back in the winning column and play a real solid game,” Dubnyk said. “It’s easy to start to look at the end result when you’ve lost a few, but I think we did a good job tonight of keeping it as small as we could. We stuck to our game and played a solid road game.”

Yeo said, “That’s a real good response from our group. You’re nervous because you can come in here against that team and you can play a good game and do a lot of things and potentially things might not go your way, but I like the way we stayed with it.

On playing Suter a lot with Spurgeon, Yeo said, “That’s the way we had planned it out. He plays big minutes. That’s always the case. He’s going to play with a lot of guys. But regardless of who he was out there with tonight, that was a great response from Suts. I know the comments, it was sincere. He’s an emotional guy and that happened yesterday, but I think his response tonight was terrific. Obviously getting the game-winning goal, but just his play in general.”

The penalty kill gave up another goal after Duncan Keith lifted Mikko Koivu’s stick and swiped the puck to set up Kane. The power play went 0 for 4 and was stationary throughout, although the advantage registered eight shots.

If you’ve heard me lately on the radio or my mini-Twitter rant at the St. Cloud State game the other night, I think it’s time the Wild figures out a way to get a righty on the half wall instead of left-shot Mikael Granlund on the No. 1 unit.

The penalty kills have adjusted from the early-season success of the No. 1 unit and have started pushing Granlund down the wall on his forehand where he has nowhere to go. I think it would make sense to move Granlund to the power-play point of the second unit or put Marco Scandella there and move Jared Spurgeon to that spot on the No. 1 unit if the Wild’s not willing to put Charlie Coyle there.

Coyle did play well in that role during the preseason, particularly during an exhibition game in Columbus.

Yeo basically said tonight that other than the left-shot Granlund, if the Wild’s going to work the setup on that side the way Suter and Parise want it to, the Wild doesn’t have a righty that can play that side

“Playing the half wall is a very different position. Not a lot of guys can do that. There’s a lot of poise, there’s a lot of understanding,” Yeo said. “Up until tonight, our power play was 20 percent, which is pretty good. We know we can be a little bit better, but we’ve had a lot of guys out in that time too.”

Basically, Yeo said the Wild didn’t work the power play Monday in practice because he wanted to work defensive-zone coverage. He said now that Parise is back, he doesn’t want to overreact by changing a bunch of personnel. He said he wants to get some familiarity back by working the power play in some upcoming practices.

How about the Wild playing with a lead for a change on the road?

Pominville provided the Wild with its first lead in regulation in six road games 4 minutes, 9 seconds into the game. The Wild had one lead in the previous eight road games (1-4-3), and that lasted 72 seconds.

Remember, in last year’s second-round sweep at the hands of the Blackhawks, the Wild didn’t lead once in the series.

That’s it for me. If the Wild doesn’t scrap practice Wednesday, Rachel Blount is covering.

I’ll come to you next Thursday morning before the Leafs game. A reminder, Star Tribune Fans Night Out is that night before the game. For package information of how to attend the game and the Chalk Talk with Mark Parrish and me, go to

The next podcast with Jim Souhan and myself is Saturday at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub. Come on by. Have a good night.

Oh, by the way, one game after the Stars rallied from 3-0 down in the third to beat the Wild in overtime, the Stars blew a 3-0 third-period lead tonight in Calgary and lost in a shootout. Imagine that. 

Suter, Yeo meet and say they've patched up differences

Ryan Suter, in humorous fashion, ended his press scrum after today's morning skate by saying, "OK, no more drama, guys."

There's something about Suter and the Blackhawks locker room. Remember, after last January's loss in Chicago a few days before the Devan Dubnyk trade, he said, "I don’t know what the heck is going on, but every day’s a bad day right now

The Wild's DEFCON has gone from about DEFCON, let's call it, 3 yesterday back down to DEFCON 5 this morning after the Wild's No. 1 defenseman met with coach Mike Yeo.

All is calm in the Wild world again.

You can read the article in today's paper here

and the blog with full quotes from yesterday's events and comments here

Refresh your memories with the day's events and you'll understand the context for today, but before today's skate, Yeo and Suter met to clear the air. Tonight against the Blackhawks, Yeo will indeed go with Suter being reunited with left-shot now right-defenseman Jonas Brodin and left-shot Marco Scandella will return to the lineup and be paired with right-shot partner of yesteryear Jared Spurgeon. Nate Prosser, a righty, will play the left side of right shot Matt Dumba. Christian Folin won't play.

"We’re obviously on the same page," Suter said. "It’s a story that shouldn’t even be a story. I think the heat of the practice yesterday, I was just saying stuff I probably shouldn’t have said. But at the end of the day, it’s about winning and it’s about what's going to be best for our team. Obviously Brods is a great defenseman, Spurge is a good defenseman, we’ve got a lot of good defensemen. I told you at the beginning of the year, our D corps I think is up there at the top of the league. It’s not really news to me anymore."

Yeo said Suter's comments yesterday "didn’t bother me. There was a time maybe where it would have, ... but first off, just the day in general, practice in general was a day to rattle the cage a little bit, and so that’s what we were looking for."

Yeo basically admitted he was trying to tick the players off yesterday after going 1-4-2 in their previous seven games.

"Exactly," Suter said, before laughing and adding, "I did exactly what the coach wanted, right? At the end, it’s what they decide to help us win. And we weren’t winning, and I think it’s probably good to change it up a little bit."

Yeo explained his rationale for the tinkering today (which I'll explain below). "We didn’t talk before practice yesterday obviously. Might have been a good idea," Yeo said, laughing.

"One thing I’ve learned is you never judge a player how they react to something by their initial reaction," Yeo added. "Some players, they’ll nod their head and they’ll say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,' and it goes in one ear and out the other ear and other players they might react in a way that you don’t think is great and then they're the ones that go out and actually take it all in.

"I know Suts is a guy like that. I learned a long time ago coaching him, he’s not one of those 'yeah, yeah' guys, but he’s a guy that when you ask him to do something, he might tell you his opinions, but nobody will go out there and do it better than him."

Suter still says he meant what he said yesterday: "I mean, it’s easier to play with a righty. That’s all I was saying yesterday basically. It has nothing to do with who it is or what it is. Lefty, righty, it’s easier to come out of your end, it’s easier to make more plays. If this works, and we get winning again, might as well keep it. Hopefully it works and this is all behind us."

On why Yeo is making the changes: "There’s lots of reasons. We don’t know what’s going to happen beyond the first few shifts tonight. We’ll see. This is not a reflection on him, this is not a reflection of Spurge or anything else. This is just what we felt we needed to do. Status quo was not quite working for us, so let’s shake things up a little bit and see what happens."

A lot of this has to do with Matt Dumba's play recently.

"I want him to bounce back and get on top of his game," Yeo said. "It was a couple days ago where I challenged him pretty hard and I thought he responded last game. There was one turnover but I don’t completely fault him for that. Mistakes happen. Lots of players make mistakes. But when you’re standing behind the bench and you’re watching a player play shift after shift you can tell if his mind is in the right place and I thought he was last game."

Yeo also liked Brodin's game against Dallas. He had an assist,, three shots, six attempted shots, three takeaways and four blocked shots in 23:58 of ice time.

"I thought that was his best game of the year," Yeo said. "I would say that for sure. We’ll see if he can continue that. I thought he was real assertive, I thought the way he was defending. That to me is a real good example of what his top games look like – his skating ability, his separation of guys from the puck, his gap control, his retrievals, his execution. He’s a guy that has always played with a lot of offensive minded guys. He’s a defense first guy. But when he is being aggressive in terms of trying to create offense and jumping into plays and getting pucks to the net, that’s when you know he’s on top of things."

Devan Dubnyk, as long as his wife doesn't go into labor, will start vs. Corey Crawford tonight. Dubnyk said it sounded like last night was a close call, but the bread's still in the oven. This will be their second son and the due date is Friday.

Not much more going on. Lots of Patrick Kane chatter today on his 19-game point streak, and I'll probably write my Sunday column on him. Kane was great talking about it today, as was Zach Parise, who has an immense amount of respect for Kane.

Parise said personally he is starting to feel more himself. He has no points in two games since returning from a sprained MCL.

"There's still some stuff that's off not practicing or playing for almost a month, it takes a little bit to get it back," Parise said. "I mean, these guys are 20, 25 games in and in a full sprint, so hopefully tonight will be another step in the right direction and I can get the timing back even a little more."

Parise is excited Scandella is back: "Marco is such a big part in our D, in our top-4 D. He's a great player, just as far as retrieving the puck, getting us out of our own zone, I think we really missed him from that standpoint. It'll be good for us to have him back in the offensive zone, too. He's got a big shot, makes good plays. Hopefully that'll kickstart us a little bit."

As you saw, the alumni game rosters were released. Check out the previous blog for those.

"That’s going to be a really cool event," Yeo said. "I’m anxious to watch that for sure. There’s a lot of great names on there. That whole weekend is going to be something special. I got to be part of one back in Pittsburgh and it’s something that I’m very excited for our players to get to be a part of. And obviously for the state of Minnesota as well."

Asked if he had picked out his attire yet, Yeo joked, "I’m going to wear something on top of my head, I know that."

TV Listings

Local Schedule

  • Gophers women's basketball at Duke

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • Toronto at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Ohio State at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    7:07 pm

  • South Dakota at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    3:07 pm

  • Ohio State at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on ESPNEWS, 1500-AM

  • Colorado at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Portland at Timberwolves

    7:05 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Seattle at Vikings

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Towson at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • L.A. Clippers at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Colorado

    8 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

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Today's Scoreboard

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