Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild quick hits; Free prospect scrimmage Thursday night at the X

Posted by: Michael Russo under Adrian Peterson, Vikings draft, Wild off-season news Updated: July 11, 2012 - 3:09 PM

The Wild prospects hit the ice for a second consecutive day -- this time down at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights -- before sessions return to the X tomorrow morning.

Also, remember, tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7, the prospects will be scrimmaging at the X. It's free and open to the public. The first 1,000 fans get a Ryan Suter T-shirt. The Hockey Lodge store will be open, and, I'll go out on a limb and say, if you want to buy season-tickets, that can be accomplished, too. Gate 1 opens to get into the arena for the scrimmage at 6:30 p.m.

On Sunday at 11 a.m., there will be another scrimmage. The first 1,000 fans get a Zach Parise T-shirt.

Also, Friday from 3-6:30 p.m., I'll be filling in for Dan Barreiro on KFAN (100.3-FM). Lots of hockey talk and guests, but we'll also be talking Twins, Adrian Peterson, world peace, politics, the heat wave. (OK, not the latter three).

Please tune in, call, email.

Today, lots of skill drills, plus work with powerskating instructor Barry Karn, whom I wrote about a few weeks back in my Brady Skjei feature before the draft. Karn is the uncle of Skjei, the incoming Gopher and now-New York Rangers draft pick.

Andy Ness has also been around helping with skating and stick handling, while the Houston coaches -- John Torchetti, Mike Van Ryn and Sebastien Laplante -- and Orlando coach Drake Berehowsky have been running the practices with coach Mike Yeo, assistants Rick Wilson, Darryl Sydor and Darby Hendrickson and the brass -- Chuck Fletcher, Brent Flahr, Jim Mill, Brad Bombardir and Shep Harder -- watching from the cheap seats.

Kent Youngblood will be writing for Thursday's paper, myself for Friday's. I'll also blog after Thursday's scrimmage and Kent will blog after Sunday's.

After Thursday, however, I will be on vacation for the rest of the month, so Kent and others will have the keys to my blog.

I'll re-post the depth chart to give you a talker before I get out of dodge this weekend.

Some quick hits:

-- Jonas Brodin can skate backwards better than most people can walk forwards. The kid is smooth.

-- Granlund looks awesome.

-- I've received some questions in the past few days why Marco Scandella has to come to development camp and, say, Jared Spurgeon doesn't. I talked to Yeo about that, and the reasons are as I suspected:

1. Games played. Spurgeon has played 123 NHL games, 40 more than Scandella; 2. This is a big year for Scandella and the Wild wants him to take another step in his growth; 3. Scandella is the top dog, the leader in camp, the guy to give the kids an example of how to work on and off the ice, to keep things loose, etc.

Also, and Yeo didn't say this, but remember, Spurgeon is coming off a season-ending concussion, although the Wild has said he was cleared soon after the season.

-- Mario Lucia, a second-round pick in 2011, isn't at camp because he is currently in classes at Notre Dame. However, the Wild said there was a chance he may come in for some of the weekend activities. That'll be up to Lucia though. Because he's a college kid, the Wild can't pick up any of the costs due to college eligibility rules. That's why Erik Haula wasn't at a camp. Would have cost the kid a fortune flying in from Finland. He is at camp this year though.

-- Restricted free agents Nick Palmieri, Jarod Palmer, Carson McMillan and David McIntyre are the only players still unsigned. When they do, that'll give the Wild 49 players under contract. You can only have 50. The Wild says this isn't a problem, but I still suspect at some point there could be a trade to give a little more breathing room. Typically you'd want to have a few open spots in case you need to make a trade or grab somebody off waivers in-season.

Again though, there's no rush. There's a lot of time before camp is (scheduled) to start Sept. 21, and as long as you have one opening, it's no big deal, the Wild has said.

-- I've gotten some questions asking if Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are permanent alternate captains or if coach Mike Yeo will continue to rotate the A's. They are permanent, meaning get used to seeing letters on the chests of Mikko Koivu (C), Parise and Suter for a long, long time. Parise and Suter have 13-year deals, and Koivu has six years left on his pact. My opinion: Too much is made of letters on chests. Trust me, it's not like Matt Cullen and Dany Heatley won't be leaders on this team anymore just because they don't have A's over their hearts. Along with Tom Gilbert, Heatley and Cullen were a big part of the Wild's recruitment for Parise and Suter. I promise, they're not bothered by the disappearing A.

-- Got some questions asking if the 2,000+ season tickets sold by the Wild are full and partial combined. They are full and partial plan "equivalents" (to full season-tickets).

-- Got some questions as to the practice facility hints Craig Leipold has dropped lately. During the pitches to Parise and Suter, both agents called up and asked if the Wild had a practice facility. That's important to a lot of players. All this did was reignite Leipold's long-time pursuit to build a facility and public skating complex at Seven Corners in St. Paul. The Wild has long had renderings and cost estimates, but you may remember, in 2009, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a loan forgiveness program that would have freed $32 million for the project. Now, Leipold hopes to get this going again.

The Wild practices the majority of the time at the X, but when there's concerts, it has dress-and-drives to St. Thomas. As Leipold even said on Fox Sports North the other day, that may work in juniors, but NHLers hate it. Not so bad going. The ride back when they're in their smelly, wet equipment?

Yuck. That's a big reason why coach Todd Richards, and last year Mike Yeo, conveniently has optional practices whenever St. Thomas is on the agenda.

-- Tomorrow night in Toronto, new Wild center Zenon Konopka will be taking part in the Smashfest! Charity Ping-Pong Challenge at Steam Whistle Brewery. Others taking part? Dominic Moore, Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Brett Connolly, Logan Couture, Teddy Purcell, Joe Reekie, Mathieu Schneider, Ryan Shannon, Daniel Winnik, Rob Zamuner, Joel Ward, Wojtek Wolski, Steve Downie and Kevin Weekes.

Proceeds from the event will be directed to The Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center and Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute.

 

-- Remember, I'll be hosting for Barreiro on KFAN on Friday from 3-6:30 p.m., so please tune in and call in. Lining up some great guests, and I'll fill you in on them on my blog Thursday after the scrimmages.

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