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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Gophers drop to 4, and frankly, who cares?; Hackett, Larsson lead Aeros to victory

Posted by: Michael Russo under Gophers, Wild off-season news Updated: November 19, 2012 - 3:01 PM

UPDATED

There's been some Gophers men's hockey news, although it's a lot less exciting than what's going on with the football program.

Rankings are out, and the Gophers, coming off a second consecutive 1-0-1 weekend, have slipped from No. 3 to No. 4 in both the USCHO.com poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.

New Hampshire has hopped over the Gophers to No. 3 with Boston College and Denver still 1-2.

The University of North Dakota is 7 and St. Cloud State is 12 in both polls.

This is my first time ever covering college hockey. No offense to anybody who creates these polls or votes in these polls, but I could care less about the polls and where the Gophers are ranked.

I feel about polls the same way I feel about NHL power rankings. They're meaningless. I remember last December when the Wild was the No. 1 team in the NHL, Wild fans were freaking that the Wild wasn't getting the respect of the power-ranking compilers.

The Wild finally got the attention of the national media, jumped in the polls and promptly went on a 50-game tailspin.

Polls mean squat. Power rankings mean even less because it's not some committee voting; it's some reporter in a dark room investing 10 minutes max into the effort of compiling a list.

Where you are at the end of the year is the only thing that matters.

Now, how good are the Gophers? No clue yet. Obviously they've got some issues to work out, but the good news if you're a Gophers rube is there's plenty of time left in this season to get their act together. And, as for this past weekend, they played in two very good, entertaining games, and especially Saturday, I thought they played real well.

I'll have more from the Gophers after availability on Wednesday. They head to Vermont for the first time in history this weekend.

Speaking of the Gophers, I chatted briefly with Mikael Granlund, who is working his way back from a sprained ankle, yesterday. He did make it to Friday's Gophers-Badgers game with fellow injured Wild prospect Jonas Brodin and assistant coach Rick Wilson. Granlund said he loved the atmosphere and watching his buddy, Erik Haula, score a goal and assist.

"He's going to be a great player someday," Granlund said of Haula.

The Aeros are on their way back to Houston as we speak. They beat Rockford 3-2 last night at the X with Matt Hackett playing by far his best game of the season with 34 saves, Johan Larsson scoring twice, including a big shorthanded goal, and Justin Fontaine scoring once.

The Aeros did not play well, especially the first 10 minutes when they looked nervous in front of the Wild crowd. Bad passes and turnovers a foot inside the blue line constantly.

But Fontaine settled things down with the goal, and then Hackett, who has had a tough go this season, went to work.

Still, it seemed fun for the fans to get a taste of pro hockey and a look at some of the Wild's future. I did a story on Charlie Coyle and some of that future at this link.

The NHL and NHLPA will get back in a room tonight in Manhattan. Reportedly, there's a good amount of players coming in for the meeting and maybe some fresh NHL faces, like GM's. Preliminary reports say maybe guys like Joe Nieuwendyk (Dallas) and Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey).

Don't think any of the names have actually been confirmed yet. As of this morning, I was told Wild owner Craig Leipold, who is on the negotiating committee, was not attending, but that could obviously change. Leipold got into it with Chris Campoli at the Nov. 9 meeting, so maybe that's a good thing for now.

Meeting starts at 7 p.m. ET. Sources say Toronto GM Brian Burke, Boston owner Jeremy Jacobs, Washington owned Ted Leonsis and Calgary owner Murray Edwards are expected to attend. Those are three of the four members of the negotiating committee. Leipold is the other, and he won't be there, I'm told.

The name calling needs to stop though. Ian White calls Gary Bettman an idiot the other day. Kris Versteeg called Bettman and Bill Daly a cancer today. Bettman accuses a reporter of "fabrication" and insults the players intelligence in a Winnipeg Q&A.

Everybody needs to grow up, get to the table, act like adults and do what's best for the game and their livelihoods.

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