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Russo's Rants

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

Wild hopes to end road trip on a high Thursday in Buffalo

Good day from beautiful Buffalo, where the Wild held a very optional practice at First Niag, I mean, now Key Bank Center this afternoon.

It'll always be Marine Midland Arena in my heart.

The Wild, tied for the most goals in the National Hockey League and tied for the top spot in the Western Conference wink, hopes to finish off this roadie on a high Thursday by snagging a fourth and fifth point out of a possible eight.

Injured Jared Spurgeon and Erik Haula took part in today's optional, but coach Bruce Boudreau indicated that neither one would return against the Sabres.

"When they're healthy enough to play, they'll play," Boudreau said.

Boudreau may also be thinking, why rush Spurgeon back when Christian Folin's game keeps getting better, Matt Dumba has played well with Ryan Suter the past three games and has played four good games in a row and, frankly, Tuesday's game against Boston may not get to the second period scoreless if not for two solid defensive plays by Nate Prosser.

The Wild, tied with a league-high 24 goals, is 7-2-2 in its past 11 games against the Sabres, outscoring them 37-23. It is 7-2 all-time in Buffalo, including three wins in a row.

Other tidbits:

-- Joel Eriksson Ek is coming off becoming the first Wild teenager in history and fourth Wild rookie to have three assists in a game (Pascal Dupuis, Mikko Koivu and Nick Johnson). He’s the second Wild rookie in history to be +3 in a game (Justin Fontaine).

-- The Wild leads the NHL with 16 players who have scored at least one goal. That’s three more than any team. Mikael Granlund is the only Wild forward without a goal and the only Wild player to have played all seven games without a goal.

-- The Wild’s first-period goal and shot differential is -2 and -22. Its second-period goal and shot differential is a league-best +9 (15-6) and +22.

-- The Wild has the NHL’s second-best penalty kill (20 for 21, 95.2 percent.

-- Sabres C Jack Eichel (ankle) and LW Evander Kane (ribs) are out. G Robin Lehner (ill) is questionable. He didn't practice today.

-- Former Sabre Zac Dalpe didn't face any league discipline for his boarding minor against the Bruins. Dalpe was pretty good talking about his fight with former teammate Tim Schaller. It was his first career fight, and I'll write more about it in Thursday's game notebook. Schaller and Dalpe texted after the game and all's good.

-- Boudreau threw Chris Stewart on Dalpe's line after the boarding penalty just to protect Dalpe in case of retribution.

"Everybody wants a big brother. They want to feel safe," Boudreau said. "Stewy makes them feel safe. That's good. I think that's something we need."

On Dalpe, Boudreau said, "He plays hard. He's doing everything he can to stay in the NHL. I think he's doing a real good job."

-- Boudreau quote on last night: "I thought we were better on video than we were live. Maybe that's just the critique in me. I watched it, and thought, 'Maybe that wasn't a bad play, maybe we are forcing them into mistakes. CORSI numbers, I don't know if we would have won that battle. But we played pretty good, we got great goaltending when we needed to, and I don't think they did, and that was the difference."

Talk to ya Thursday. I'm filling in for Barreiro on KFAN from 3-6:30 p.m. Friday. Planning a first hour roundtable with Anthony LaPanta, Mike Greenlay and Kevin Gorg. I'm sure there will be plenty of laughs.

Postgame: Balanced scoring, huge second period lead to Wild's first road win

Tonight, by a 5-0 score, the Wild handed the Boston Bruins their most lopsided shutout loss since a 6-0 loss in Buffalo on Feb. 8, 2012, and their worst shutout loss at home since a 6-0 defeat to Los Angeles on Jan. 12, 2006.

Good win for the Wild, which not only won for the first time in four road games this season (1-2-1), it won for the first time on this road trip (1-1-1) that ends Thursday in Buffalo.

Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart, Ryan Suter and Jason Zucker struck four times in the second period to snap a scoreless tie and Jason Pominville added a third-period goal. Rookie Joel Eriksson Ek, playing only his third NHL game, recorded three assists in only 8:55 of ice time for his first multi-point game and Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves for his 20th career shutout and 11th with the Wild.

Zucker had three points and was plus-3. Suter scored a power-play goal, had an assist, was plus-3, had four shots, two hits and two blocked shots. Matt Dumba had an assist and was physical. He was plus-3. Eric Staal won 13 of 18 draws. I thought Christian Folin was real good again, and frankly, Nate Prosser was outstanding in the first period especially. He made two great defensive plays to foil rushes by Boston.

I wrote my game notebook on Eriksson Ek, but at 19 years, 270 days, he is the second-youngest in Wild history to post three points in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The youngest was Marian Gaborik at 19 years, 244 days, on Oct. 16, 2001.

 But that came in Gaborik’s second season, not three games into his first.

Eriksson Ek, a plus-3 tonight, is a good one, folks. Fast, decent size, great vision, good shot, smart and very responsible defensively.

Obviously, everybody’s asking on Twitter if I think he’ll stay the full year. It really is way premature to say for certain now, but I do think so. The kid’s mature beyond his years.

It is funny how he’s starting to get grief from his teammates for being so quiet on the bench. Guys joked after that they’re giving him a lot of you know what on the bench for being so quiet and shy.

Bruce Boudreau wasn’t paying attention, saying, “I couldn't even get his name out. I was calling him, Yool, Joel, Ekky, Erik. Then somebody called him a name and that'll probably stick.”

“Ekker,” I believe, is what will stick.

“He’s playing well. He sees the ice well, he makes plays,” Suter said. “Every once in awhile he gets caught, but that’s what happens when you’re a young guy and not really used to certain players or the speed of certain players. But he’s stepped right in, and he’s done a good job and he’s a great kid. Like he’s a lot of fun to be around in the locker room.”

On what they say to him on the bench, Suter said, laughing, “We give it to him. It’s fun. You know, when you’re young, you’re kind of shy, you’re sitting back, so we kind of lighten the mood a little bit.”

Coyle, the Bostonian, scored his first goal in seven career games against his hometown team.

This afternoon, I ran into a Boston cop on the street who gave Coyle a ride-along this summer. The officer showed up at the Wild’s morning skate today with Boston Police hats and shirts for many of Coyle’s teammates. They loved it.

Stewart, who’s in the midst of a rough road trip, had a tough first period and one shift before scoring, Boudreau looked like he was going to have a conniption on the bench when Stewart turned the puck over. But Stewart scored to make it 2-0 just 12 seconds after Coyle.

“He scored a goal. He was ready to battle for our team if he needed be,” Boudreau said. “That's why I changed the lines up a little bit and put him with [Zac] Dalpe in the third. He can be better [though].”

(He moved with Dalpe because he was worried the Bruins would go after him after a boarding minor).

The Coyle and Stewart goals were one second short of the Wild road record for fastest two goals, set by Mattias Weinhandl and Wes Walz in 2006. I remember it like it was yesterday. 

“The second period I think once we scored that first goal it rattled their goalie (Malcolm Subban) pretty well because we scored right again,” Boudreau said. “Once we scored the second goal it gave us the confidence to keep going. It was a good period. Whenever we can outscore a team 4-0 in a period I think it's great. And I thought in the third period we did just enough to get it deep and get it deep and they had a couple little rallies in our zone. But I thought overall we were pretty good in the third.”

The Wild has scored an NHL-best 15 second-period goals.

“Well, we’ve got to try to do that in the first now,” Zucker said. “I think we need to have better starts.”

Added Suter, “That first period was ugly. We thought it was going to be a long night if we kept playing like that. We knew that we had more. We finally started to play the way we need to play, get pucks at the net, bodies at the net and play in the offensive zone a little bit more. We want to get it going a little earlier obviously. Hopefully we can change that and get our first periods going and have a complete game.”

The Wild now has 16 goal scorers, the most in the NHL.

“It's great balance,” Boudreau said. “That's what we need. If we can have balanced scoring in this league then every line becomes a dangerous line. That's what we're striving for.”

Dubnyk, on the game, said, “It was great. That’s what we’re looking for on the road. We play a solid first, we all knew we had more. A couple big goals and what’s exciting for us is the way we played in the third. We played hard, we got scoring chances, we outscored them, we did a lot of great things in the neutral zone, and that’s what we have to do to win.”

On getting the second goal so quick after Coyle, Dubnyk said, “And a great play. Hard work by those guys down there. Ekky had a real big night and that was the start of it there. It’s nice to see Stewy put ‘em in. He means a lot to all of us in here. It’s always fun to see him score and that was a big goal for us.”

That’s it for moi. Please read the game story and notebook on Eriksson Ek.

I'll be on KFAN at 9 a.m., barring flight delay. I'm also filling in for Barreiro on Friday from 3-6:30 p.m.

Talk to you from Buffalo.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

  • Wild at Buffalo

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Gophers men's hockey at Clarkson

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Gophers football at Illinois

    11 am on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey at St. Lawrence

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • New York at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • Dallas at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN/NBATV, 830-AM

  • Vikings at Chicago

    7:30 pm on ESPN, 100.3/1130

  • Memphis at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Buffalo at Wild

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

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