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

Wild signs Luke Kunin to contract starting next season

Wild and Philadelphia Flyers tonight at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild has just signed Luke Kunin to his three-year entry-level contract starting next year. His agent (no longer advisor), Pete Rutili, is currently meeting with the Wild to iron out his travel to meet up with Iowa and some other details in the contract, like bonuses. For the rest of this season, he'll play for Iowa on an amateur tryout. That's 12 regular-season games and the playoffs if they make it.

Kunin, 19, the first sophomore to captain the Badgers in 41 years, led the team with 22 goals and 38 points in 35 games one year after leading them with 19 goals. The 2016 Wild first-round pick captained the United States to gold at the most recent world junior championships.

The Wild, 3-8 this month, snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over San Jose on Tuesday. It magic number is two, meaning it can clinch its fifth consecutive playoff berth with a win, if it gets one point and the Kings lose in any fashion or the Kings lose in regulation.

Years ago, this would be celebrated here. Not anymore.

“My expectations are a lot higher,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The Flyers are toast, but they’re desperate. They’re 2-5 in their past seven. But, they’re full of stars, can score, draw more penalties than anybody in the league, have a good power play and since 2003-04, their .767 points percentage against Minnesota is second-best in the NHL.

Nick Schultz is in for the Flyers. Kevin Falness and I had him on the radio yesterday and he indicated his career could be wrapping up, so this may be his final game in St. Paul. Remember, Mikko Koivu broke Schultz’s record a few years for most games in a Wild sweater.

Victor Bartley was on the ice for the Wild this morning?

Who, you may be asking?

The veteran defenseman, signed to be a leader in Iowa, tore his triceps in training camp and has been on the Wild cap for the most part ever since. He has accounted for 72 of the Wild’s 179 man games lost to injury.

Because he wasn’t cleared to play by the trade deadline, he couldn’t be loaned to Iowa. That means he can’t play for Iowa the rest of the season and at this point is playoff depth for the Minnesota Wild.

He had a funny start today. After his bag skate, he didn’t know Bruce Boudreau meets with the Wild at 10:45 a.m., so he accidentally walked right into the locker-room meeting and abruptly slipped back out.

Then, after meeting with the media, Bartley was locked out of the locker room.

“It’s been a long season definitely,” he said. “Basically five months away from hockey. It feels good to get back out there and start moving again with the guys.
 
“It was a lot of time in a cast basically from my wrist to my shoulder for about three and a half months and then the next month was slowly rehab and then last month and a half has been basically strengthening day in and day out.”

Bartley went back home to Nashville and in January started skating with former Wild Eric Nystrom, who then signed to play in Norway. The last month he has been in Iowa skating.
 
“It’s about getting back in the groove again, going through the same things we do every day, warm ups, bag skates, getting my shooting back, range motion, all that stuff. It just takes time and I think overtime it’ll come back just like anything else,” he said.
 
The injury, in a preseason game, came on a random faceoff play and it instantly popped.

“It was just a freak accident,” Bartley said. “I knew instantly something was wrong and then after I came off I kind of touched my arm and I noticed there was just a big hole in my arm right here and I definitely knew I had torn my tricep. The doctor was like, ‘No. You couldn’t have done that during a game?’ I was like, ‘Trust me. It’s torn.’ Then right away we got the MRI and it was completely torn off. The doctors did a great job, reattached it, and now we’re back at it again.
 
“Things were feeling good in training camp. You know, stuff like that happens. Just stay positive about it and good things will happen. I’ve still got another three or four weeks here so hopefully I’ll be back playing soon.”

He said his conditioning is “getting back there. It’s getting back there. I’d say another week and a half, two weeks of skating, then I should be back. I’ve been down in Iowa the last 3 ½, 4 weeks skating and training there, so I’m feeling good. The puck feels good on my stick, shooting’s good, skating’s getting back there again.”

The Wild’s 4-8-1 against the Metro, and has lost six straight.

So, they better me ready.

I’ll be on Fox Sports North tonight and on KFAN at 5.

Good news for Wild: No changes at practice, for a change

Not much happened down at Xcel Energy Center Wednesday morning, which for your sake could be a good thing as the Wild looks for its first winning streak since Feb. 27-28 Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Following a win over San Jose to snap a five-game losing streak, all lines and defense pairs were status quo for a change today.

“It was an anomaly,” deadpanned Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.

After a month of scrambling lines and lineups and positions, NOTHING changed today.

“Obviously success will be the difference of whether they stay the same or they don’t,”  Boudreau said after the Wild’s fifth practice all month. “That’s why Mikko’s line has been the same since November. They’ve had success and they found a chemistry.”

So,

Coyle-Staal-Parise

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund

Niederreiter-Hanzal-Pominville

Stewart-Haula-Schroeder

Suter-Spurgeon

Scandella-Dumba

Olofsson-Brodin

Christian Folin practiced again today and Boudreau expects him to return this weekend. With back-to-back afternoon games, maybe they only play him in one to ease him in.

Ryan White is sick with the flu and doubtful to play the Flyers, who are 2-5 in their past seven but have a .767 points percentage against the Wild since 2003-04, second-best by any team in that span.

Boudreau liked Hanzal's game against the Sharks.

“He was strong in all areas last night,” Boudreau said of Hanzal, especially when it came to outmuscling players along the boards. “Sometimes you think he’s really slow, but he’s always in the right position.”

Speedy Jordan Schroeder is also trying to take advantage of opportunity with White sick and out of the lineup.

Boudreau likes the complexion of his forth line to have some physicality there, but Schroeder has done his best to bang bodies and get in on the forecheck.

“His skating can bring energy to the rest of the group,” Boudreau said. “That’s what it does on many occasions. I’m not asking him to be physical. Sometimes you have to get in the other guys way and you have to win the battle on the boards. No matter how big the guy is, you’ve got to want it more than him. And he’s done that.

“He’s done a good job when he comes in for us. t’s unfortunate for him that sometimes he plays a good game and then next thing you know he’s sitting four or five, but credit to him for having the great attitude and then coming in that next night and doing his job.”

Schroeder admits that’s frustrating and he’s trying to up the aggressiveness to show Boudreau there’s value to keeping him in the lineup.

Chris Stewart said Wednesday's practice was all about “doing some house maintenance,” mostly in the neutral zone.

Stewart said his fights to open the past two games was his attempt to try to get his struggling team revved.

He noted with the Sharks struggling, Micheal Haley was trying to do the same coincidentally, that there was no previous grudge.

"He was coming for me, or I was coming for him," Stewart said.

Boudreau felt Devan Dubnyk had a real solid game against the Sharks other than the one boo-boo.

Here's a funny line: "Sometimes that can throw you into a funk, but goalies are a different breed. I mean, they just slough that off, and they have to. If I made a mistake like that as a forward, I would have been discombobulated for a week."

I chatted with Josh Harding last night and on the radio today, so that'll be my Sunday column. I also touched base with Nick Schultz, who may be wrapping up his NHL career. I'll write about him in Friday's paper.

That's it for me.

Russo-Souhan Show at 6 p.m. Wednesday night at Hell's Kitchen.

I'll also be on KFAN on Thursday at 9:35 a.m. and 5 p.m. I'll be on Fox Sports North Thursday night during the pregame show and first intermission.

Jim and I are also doing a Facebook Live Show at Hell's Kitchen at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Twins at Philadelphia (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Philadelphia at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Baltimore at Twins (spring training)

    6:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at L.A. Lakers

    9:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Minnesota United FC at New England

    1 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Vancouver at Wild

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey vs. Notre Dame

    2:30 pm on ESPNU, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Baltimore (spring training)

    5:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Portland

    9 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Detroit

    11:30 am on Ch. 11, 100.3-FM

  • Boston at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Pittsburgh (spring training)

    5:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN

  • Timberwolves at Indiana

    6 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Washington at Wild

    7 pm on NHLN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Tampa Bay (spring training)

    12:05 pm

Today's Scoreboard

  • Pittsburgh

    Boston

     

    - Bot 6th

    4

    8

  • Minnesota

    Philadelphia

     

    - Bot 9th

    4

    2

  • Miami

    St. Louis

     

    - Bot 7th

    3

    5

  • NY Yankees

    Tampa Bay

     

    - Top 8th

    4

    5

  • NY Mets

    Washington

     

    - Bot 7th

    0

    1

  • Cincinnati

    Chicago White Sox

    3:05 PM

  • Colorado

    Cleveland

    3:05 PM

  • Milwaukee

    Oakland

    3:05 PM

  • Chicago Cubs

    Arizona

    3:10 PM

  • LA Angels

    San Diego

    3:10 PM

  • Detroit

    Atlanta

    5:05 PM

  • LA Dodgers

    Texas

    6:05 PM

    ESPN

  • Seattle

    San Francisco

    8:05 PM

No NFL games today

  • Phoenix

    Brooklyn

    6:30 PM

  • Toronto

    Miami

    6:30 PM

  • LA Clippers

    Dallas

    7:30 PM

  • Memphis

    San Antonio

    7:30 PM

  • New York

    Portland

    9:00 PM

  • Tampa Bay

    Boston

    6:00 PM

  • Columbus

    Washington

    6:00 PM

  • Arizona

    Florida

    6:30 PM

  • Carolina

    Montreal

    6:30 PM

  • Pittsburgh

    Ottawa

    6:30 PM

  • New Jersey

    Toronto

    6:30 PM

  • Philadelphia

    Minnesota

    7:00 PM

    FSN

  • Calgary

    Nashville

    7:00 PM

  • Vancouver

    St. Louis

    7:00 PM

  • Dallas

    Chicago

    7:30 PM

  • Edmonton

    Colorado

    8:00 PM

  • Winnipeg

    Los Angeles

    9:30 PM

No MLS games today