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Russo's Rants

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

Boudreau: 'Crazy allegation' that Wild targeted Calgary's Gaudreau

The Wild recalled rugged left wing Kurtis Gabriel from AHL Iowa today. He didn’t arrive in Calgary in time for practice, but there’s a chance he could be in the lineup Friday night when the Wild visits the Flames.

While coach Bruce Boudreau said Gabriel won’t necessarily play, it’s clear Gabriel was chosen as the callup in part because the Wild’s worried the game could get chippy if the Flames seek retribution after the last meeting Nov. 15 when star left wing Johnny Gaudreau fractured a finger and ultimately underwent surgery.

The Flames have been shorthanded 97 times, the most in the NHL (34 times more than the Wild). Their penalty kill has been beatable, too, ranking 28th, killing just 77.3 percent.

Flames bloggers, especially, accused the Wild of targeting Gaudreau with 21 slashes throughout the course of the game. As you can see by the videos on the links, he seemed to first hurt himself on a Ryan Suter slash, then a couple from Eric Staal.

Asked if he expects the game to get chippy, Boudreau said, “It shouldn’t be. Look it, the Gaudreau injury, if you watch hockey, it was an accident. If you play hockey, you know the gloves are made out of nothing now. Everybody gets touched. It was Eric Staal.

“Eric Staal, what was the most penalty minutes he’s ever got in a year? If you think he’s a dirty player that’s going for Gaudreau’s hand, then we’re all mistaken. I think it was a crazy allegation by them, but at the same time, you never know what’s going to happen.”

You may laugh at the glove comment, but a couple NHLers I’ve actually talked to lately commented that if Gaudreau plans to carry the puck as much as he does, especially the circling in the offensive zone, he probably has to get better protection on the gloves.

Staal said, “I’m not worried. You play the game the same way every time regardless of circumstances. We’ll be prepared to go and try to get the two points because that’s the most important thing.”

Added Suter, “That’s a [crappy] part of the game. Guys get hurt. It [stinks]. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt. I honestly don’t expect anything. He’s a really good player and it [stinks] that he got hurt. But it’s part of the game.”

Suter said the Wild didn’t target Gaudreau, saying, “Honestly, he’s so quick and gets away from you so quick that you’re trying tap him on the stick just to throw him off. That’s part of the game.”

Boudreau also said with the Iowa Wild in Grand Rapids on Friday and Saturday and Minnesota playing in Edmonton on Sunday, the Wild wanted an extra forward with the team in case it needs to get a player here.

“He’s not necessarily playing,” Boudreau said of Gabriel, adding, “He’s coming up here, played games here last year. From all reports is he’s doing OK down there.”

Other than that, it was a big special teams practice today, and unusually the penalty kill.

The PK has cost the Wild bigtime in the previous two losses.

Remember, in the first 10 games of the season, the Wild’s kill was 26 for 27 for a league-best 96.3 percent. In the past 12 games, the Wild’s kill is 27 for 37, dousing just 72.9 percent of opposing power plays.

It has plummeted to 14th in the NHL (82.8 percent).

Before practice, the team had a PK meeting where they showed video clips of what it was doing so well the first 10 games.

It was outworking power plays, having a great neutral zone forecheck where it didn’t allow teams to enter the zone cleanly or set up and clearing pucks 200 feet.

“It was more of a meeting to reset,” Boudreau said. “Because some guys, over time, if you don’t practice it, then you get loose at it, which is why we had power play specific and penalty killing specific out there today.”

In other words, normally the Wild will practice the power play with a penalty kill unit or two going up against them. But because so many Wild power-play guys are also on the penalty kill, the Wild practiced both, which made for a little longer than normal practice the day before a game.

Staal: “We just got to get crispier in some areas. Our ability to make teams have to dump it and not set up with possession carrying it in is huge. If you can continually have teams go back and forth going up and down the ice trying to break in, that’s a big thing. I thought we were really, really good at that the first 10, 11 games using a lot of bodies and rolling over shifts and not letting teams set up. Once teams set up, guys can make plays. That’s how it is. If you can limit them opportunities to set up, for the most part you’re going to find success.”

Devan Dubnyk: “We need to get back to the way we were killing before. It’s not any magic recipe that we need to change. I just think we have to sharpen up a little bit, some small areas, as simple as getting the 200-foot clears down the ice. That was one thing we were really, really good at the first 11 games was getting pucks down the ice and getting clears and momentum.”

Erik Haula: “It’s just some little things. It wasn’t black and white as it was at the beginning of the year. I got to watch it a lot up top there for seven games [when I was hurt]. During that time, it looked really spot-on, guys working together, and now it’s a little bit of kind of guessing, should I, should I not.”

The big thing is clears, he said. “You have a chance to clear it, it’s got to go 200,” Haula said. “Otherwise it’s always one out of three at least that end up in the back of the net. You always get that feeling watching from the bench when you don’t get a clear and it stays in the zone.”

Maybe the Flames can be the PK’s tonic.

They have the worst special teams in the NHL. Besides being 28th on the PK, they’re 30th on the power play.

Talk Friday. I'll be on XM at 2:30 p.m. CT (I believe), KFAN at 5:15 p.m. and Fox Sports North Plus during the game and before the game.

No off day in Calgary for Wild after loss in Vancouver

Judging from my Twitter mentions last night, many Wild fans wanted Bruce Boudreau to skate the team into oblivion today in Calgary.

If you’re one of those fans, you would have been sorely disappointed by today’s anticlimactic yet long practice at the Corral.

Instead of punishing his players, the Wild coach decided to actually work – and work a lot – on the areas of the game that have been problems lately.

He said he would have scrapped practice today as a reward if the Wild had won in Vancouver. Instead, the Wild blew a lead for the third time in six games to lose, so he decided to get something out of today’s first of two straight practices before Friday’s game at Calgary.

It’s funny, and Boudreau has brought this up three times in the last week, including after last night’s game. He and I got into a slight disagreement on camera in the postgame in Dallas because I felt there were too many odd-man rushes and some bad habits were creeping into the Wild’s game that night.

He didn't see it that. We talked about it the next day, he kind of swayed more toward my opinion and now he’s completely on board. Odd-man rushes were the focal point of today’s 70-plus minute practice.

“As you talked about in Dallas, which I should have seen it coming, I didn’t think of it too badly in Dallas, but our odd-man rushes, it’s ridiculous how many we’ve [given up] recently,” Boudreau said after practice. “It slides and slides and slides, and then it slides into a problem, and then you have to fix it. And you can fix it through practice.”

In practice, the team worked on tracking back, picking up the right man, communicating and not losing the third guy high in the offensive zone in the first place.

The bigtime guilty party last night when it came to giving up odd-man rushes and backchecking all night was the Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle line.

The trio starred in today’s video session and a couple of the players, including Parise, got talked to by Boudreau.

“We didn’t have a very good first and second period,” Parise said. “We didn’t support each other very much up the ice, turned the puck over a lot in the offensive zone. Just felt like we were backchecking for two periods. Just one of those games. We couldn’t get much going. That’s OK. It happens.

“But I think we’ve got to learn from it too. There were times where we just gave up the puck away. I think the first five times I had the puck, I gave it away. Tough to feel good about your game when that happens.”

What was so uncharacteristic is most of the Staal line’s turnovers came on entries when they had full control of the puck before giving it away. That’s how the Canucks got most their rushes against that line.

When the line did establish a forecheck, Coyle said the three forwards pressed too hard, got away from what works and “cheated the system. We had that third guy too low, and one pass beats all of us and we’re backchecking all night.

“I know Eric and Zach, that’s not nearly good enough for them, and we’re all on the same page there. We have to be much better for our team. I can’t think of too many shifts down in their end and cycling and feeling good and getting chances. We didn’t have anything. We were playing in our own end it seemed like all night.”

Said Boudreau, “I talked with a couple of them. They’re good players and they’re all professional and they’re going to get back on track. We’d like to see, and we haven’t seen it too often, that all the lines are going at the same time. Against Pittsburgh, we were all involved and committed. I just think in some other times when you’re playing teams that have a lesser record than us, we’re not all committed. It’s tough to win like that. But you’ve got to keep grinding. They’re good players. It’s a good team. We’ll find out way again Friday.”

Boudreau isn’t pleased with the penalty kill or the power play right now, so I bet that’s the focus of tomorrow’s practice. He also wants more disciplined.

Matt Dumba’s penalty to negate a power play turned the Canucks’ game upside. Just a careless penalty by fencing off at the blue line. Textbook interference, and right whem the Wild had a chance to put the Canucks away on a power play.

“It’s a bad penalty to take because it was easily defendable,” Boudreau said. “All he had to do was turn around and go get the puck, and we all know that’s a penalty now.”

Re-watching the game today, Dumba had a ton of mistakes last night. Boudreau said, “You can say that. You’re watching the game. I’m not going to throw him under the bus. There’s a lot of guys that made a lot of mistakes last night.”

One other big issue: The fourth line. Boudreau is a guy that likes to roll four lines. He can’t right now. When I asked if he’s got an issue with this, he said, “It is what it is.”

As few of words as that is, that’s an indictment and a half. Chris Stewart hasn’t had a point since Oct. 27 (14 games)!

Not good.

After a 6-2-1 October, the Wild went 5-6-2 in November. The team hopes to turn back around with the calendar flipping to December.

“It’d be nice. We’d love to. We talk about it,” Parise said. “But when we have that chance, we shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes. When we do have a chance to string a few in a row, we throw together a not very good effort.

“We have to worry about Calgary and get this turned around.”

Weird schedule. We’re in town tonight and the Flames host the Leafs, so I may check that out.

Talk to you after Thursday’s Flames and Wild practices.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Timberwolves at New York

    6:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Ohio State at Gophers men's hockey

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Wild at Calgary

    8 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Gophers women's basketball

    2 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    3:30 pm

  • Timberwolves at Charlotte

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Ohio State at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's basketball vs. Vanderbilt at Sioux Falls, S.D.

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    2 pm

  • Wild at Edmonton

    8:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • NJIT at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • San Antonio at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, NBATV, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at New Mexico

    8 pm on 88.5-FM

  • Wild at Toronto

    6:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Toronto

    6 pm on TNT, 830-AM

  • Army at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

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Today's Scoreboard

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  • Washington

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    7:30 PM

  • Houston


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  • Minnesota


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  • Montreal

    San Jose

    9:30 PM

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