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

Lindy Ruff and Bruce Boudreau duel with the good pregame one-liners

Battle of the deadpan one-liners today between crusty (just kidding), old-school coaches Lindy Ruff and Bruce Boudreau.

Ruff, the Dallas Stars' coach whom I was lucky enough to cover two decades ago in Florida, was asked about the NHL's new goalie pants being mandated Feb. 4. I've written about it a bunch, and here's Devan Dubnyk's latest thoughts (not positive ones) from Monday's paper.

The Wild has the NHL's second-best save percentage behind Washington at .925 (Devan Dubnyk's is .935, but it drops because Darcy Kuemper is at .901).

The Stars have the NHL's 27th-ranked save percentage at .896 in front of Colorado, Philadelphia and St. Louis (poor Ken Hitchcock and Mike Yeo, but the Blues can't get a save and are falling because of it).

So back to Ruff on the pants: "I'm so far away from that, I've got other fish to fry than to worry about the goalies' pants right now. ... I had no clue that the goalies had new pants. I hope they're bigger."

Ouch, says Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, who gets the nod tonight after Niemi got shellacked when the Wild was here less than two weeks ago.

Now, to Boudreau, the Wild's lovable coach.

I talked to GM Chuck Fletcher about the Wild's center depth this morning and you can read in tomorrow's paper about that and his thoughts on if he plans to try to fix it because the trade deadline.

I asked Boudreau specifically if he's comfortable with the Wild's fourth-line center spot if Tyler Graovac's play doesn't markedly improve.

Boudreau paused five seconds and goes, "Hmmmm, Let’s hope it improves. Let’s hope it gets better."

He continued: "It’s not my call. We have who we have and we play who we play. If we need players at different positions, I’m sure we’re going to look at it and see what has to happen. It’s not just him. It’s every spot."

Graovac, scratched two games ago, has one point in his past 28 games. One issue is Zac Dalpe's hurt again in Iowa. He hasn't played since Jan. 7 with complications with the same knee that was operated on in Minnesota and is expected to miss at least the next few weeks.

So, the Wild's center depth is what it is right now. Graovac and Jordan Schroeder.

Boudreau noted how important it is that Mikko Koivu is back tonight against Dallas "because he's so important on faceoffs alone."

Boudreau mentioned how much his absence hurt against Nashville, saying, "If you're matching lines at all, we’re matching his line against the best line on the other team. When Schroeds was in there -- taking nothing away from him, but it’s not the same defensive makeup. So it was pretty well just running four lines, there were no matchups.

"[Koivu’s] very valuable."

Boudreau had all the one-liners today. When a reporter asked how much Schroeder has grown, Boudreau quipped, "He hasn’t grown a frigin' inch."

Then asked how much his confidence has grown, Boudreau said, "His confidence has probably gotten better. Look, he’s played 12 or 13 games. Let’s not anoint him yet. Sorry."

smiley

Lines tonight

Niederreiter-Staal-Coyle

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund

Parise-Haula-Pominville

Stewart-Graovac-Schroeder

Suter-Spurgeon

Scandella-Dumba

Reilly-Prosser

So, no Christoph Bertschy or Christian Folin

(DON'T EVEN THINK OF ASKING ME THE LINES ON TWITTER, OR YOU'LL GET A GIANT #RTFB)

cool

The Wild, after a 2-2 homestand and 4-2 loss to Nashville, looks to avoid consecutive regulation losses for the second time this season (Nov. 1 and 5). The Wild’s looking to extend its road point streak to 13 games (10-0-2), which would break the franchise record. On Jan. 14, the Wild blew a 4-0 lead in Dallas but survived on Jason Zucker’s late winning goal. The Wild is 7-2-4 in its past 13 regular-season meetings with Dallas, 4-1-2 in its past seven in Dallas.

Dubnyk starts. He is 7-2 but with a 2.91 goals-against average and .894 save percentage. Zach Parise has no goals and two assists in the past eight games. Mikael Granlund has a seven-game point streak and 25 points in the past 22 games. Zucker has 15 points in the past 15 games.

Here's today's story on slumping Charlie Coyle

After allowing 60 goals in the first 32 games (1.88 goals per game), the Wild has allowed 44 in the past 14 (3.14 goals per game). … During the Wild’s 12-game road streak, the Wild has a 44-30 goal edge, 21.9 percent power play and 87.5 percent penalty kill.

I'll be writing about this at some point, but one big reason I think the Wild and lots of teams and goalies are cracking right now is because there's so few practices. You don't have a chance to get on the ice and go over specific D-zone coverages and the goalies aren't getting reps because of the compressed schedule. Most off-days are legit days off right now.

That's it for me.

I'll be on NHL Network at 4:35 p.m. CT.

Also, TIME CHANGE, Russo-Souhan Show will be at Hell's Kitchen on Wednesday now at 4:15 p.m. because I'm getting together with a player for an upcoming feature.

Speaking of which, the Star Tribune is sending me out to All-Star Weekend in L.A., so some really cool features and coverage coming up this weekend. Talk later

Postgame: Lethargic Wild gives away two-goal lead

I got my one Twitter prediction during the game correct: The Wild cancelled practice Monday before its afternoon charter to Dallas.

Playing for the seventh time in 11 nights and reaching the tail end of nine games in 15 days heading into next weekend’s short All-Star break, the Wild looked like it ran out of gas Sunday night and coughed up a two-goal lead for the third time on its 2-2 homestand.

It survived doing so against Arizona, but the crumbles cost Minnesota victories against New Jersey and the latest being Sunday against Nashville.

This is why the Wild’s stretch of I believe 20 games in the final 25 days of the season will be pretty daunting, especially since that’s the type of stretch that can cause injuries and fatigue heading into the playoffs.

But I’ll save you that anxiety until then.

The Wild, 19-3-2 in its past 24, has come back 14 times this season, but after Filip Forsberg scored with 6:36 left, the Wild couldn’t find that tying goal (Nino Niederreiter ripped one off the post with two minutes left) and Peter Laviolette went on to become the 25th coach to win 500 games.

In a month where it seems no lead is safe in the NHL, it was actually the sixth consecutive Wild game where at least a two-goal lead vanished either by the Wild or its opponent.

Bruce Boudreau expected the Predators to come out flying.

They were completing a five-game trip fraught with all sorts of travel problems. There was a mechanical issue with their charter that caused them to arrive in Denver way late, they were stuck on an airplane in Vancouver because customs agents were missing in action, their hotel in Edmonton lost power, wifi and … water and they arrived in Minnesota without any luggage.

It’s safe to say the Predators just wanted to get home, preferably with two points in custody.

Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville gave the Wild a 2-0 lead in the first, but late in the first, you could sense the tide turn. Darcy Kuemper battled to get the Wild out of the period with its lead intact, but James Neal scored early in the second.

From there, the Wild was outshot 10-4 in the period and Zach Parise couldn’t score on a shorthanded chance or Charlie Coyle on a point-blank try to get its two-goal lead back.

By 2:20 of the third, Forsberg tied the score after Tyler Graovac lost a defensive draw and the Wild lost, as Boudreau said, its structure.

Trying to grind it to overtime at least, the Wild made the bigtime mistake of not getting a puck deep at the red line. Pominville, who should know better and it was a contagious thing all period, didn’t get it deep and 20 seconds later it was in the net. Boudreau called the mistakes in the third “dumb” and was critical of Pominville for the turnover without naming him.

Boudreau also ripped the refs for not calling a blatant trip on Jason Zucker 33 seconds before Forsberg’s winner and not calling a penalty after when Ryan Suter was high-sticked in the head.

“I will say this and very rarely talk about referees,” he said. “They have to start calling the penalties that are penalties. I don't want ticky-tack penalties. They stuck the knee out and tripped us just before their third goal. Then they high-sticked Suts in the head. I don't understand why these things aren't being called around the league anymore. Maybe I'll get an answer.”

Maybe. His former next door neighbor, Paul Devorski, was the supervisor here tonight.

Jordan Schroeder was called into duty to center Granlund and Zucker because Mikko Koivu was sick. Schroeder filled in well and assisted on Granlund’s goal, but it was a big loss because Koivu is one of the best faceoff men in the NHL and the Wild lost 22 of 34 in the first two periods. He would have been out there for all the big draws.

Boudreau anticipates that Koivu will fly to Dallas.

Charlie Coyle is really struggling. One goal in 13 games, 28 shots in the last 20. Coyle met with him Saturday and is not happy with his play. I’ll write about that for Tuesday’s paper.

Six-game winning streak vs. the Central, dead. 15-game point streak vs. the West, dead. Chicago tied the Wild in points, but Minnesota is still atop the conference because it has played three fewer games.

The Wild plays in Dallas on Tuesday. The Wild can break its franchise-record road point streak, now at 12 games, with a point. The Wild hasn’t lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 1 and 5.

For the Wild to rebound, it’ll need to find some energy in the next few days.

That’s it for now. No practice Monday. Talk Tuesday barring news.

The next Russo-Souhan Show is at Hell’s Kitchen at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. I’ll also be on KFAN at 9 a.m. Tuesday

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Wild at Dallas

    7:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Phoenix

    8 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Gophers men's basketball at Ohio State

    6 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Ohio State at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Indiana at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Minnesota Duluth at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm

  • Maryland at Gophers men's basketball

    1 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    3:07 pm

  • Brooklyn at Timberwolves

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Orlando at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Michigan State at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 88.5-FM

Today's Scoreboard

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