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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All-around effort by the Wild helps it improve to 2-0

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 20, 2013 - 11:42 PM
In his first start since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Josh Harding made 24 saves for his seventh career shutout and Zach Parise scored his first goal as a Wild to lift Minnesota to a 1-0 win over Dallas.
 
Good evening from high above an empty Xcel Energy Center, where a few hours ago, the perfect story was written by Harding, the 28-year-old goalie selected by the Wild in the second round of the 2002 draft.
 
If you don’t remember my stories at the time, here is the article I wrote in November after spending an afternoon with Harding and his doctor, Dan Peterson.
 
Here is also a supplementary blog I wrote that night, too.
 
Tonight, Harding brushed off all the doubt and butterflies and was flawless.
 
“This is something that most of us cannot understand what he’s going through,” coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s just had an amazing attitude about this.”
 
Added former teammate and Dallas Stars forward Eric Nystrom: “It’s incredible. There’s a lot more important things in life than hockey and I think sometimes we forget about that.”
 
As good as Harding was in the game, he was as good in his postgame interview. He thanked everybody, from management, to the coaches, to his teammates, to his doctors – Dan Peterson and Jonathan Calkwood -- that he says have “saved him” and made him believe.
 
To hear from Harding, read the game story when it’s updated later tonight on www.startribune.com/wild.
 
On the game, the Wild limited the Stars’ chances, remedied a lot of the defensive woes from the night before and spent a lot of the night in the offensive zone. They generated 32 shots and a lot of quality chances, especially during a second-period flurry, but weren’t rewarded.
 
The Stars’ line of Loui Eriksson-Derek Roy-Jaromir Jagr was pretty much shut down. It was a team effort, but the Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Pierre-Marc Bouchard line along with Clayton Stoner and Tom Gilbert got a lot of the assignments.
 
This is the first time in Bouchard’s career he’s being asked to play a defensive role against top players and the best way to do that is to play in the offensive zone. This line did that for much of the night. Clutterbuck had five shots and five hits, including a crushing, clean hit on Stephane Robidas.
 
Gilbert had seven blocked shots and Stoner was just awesome tonight. Justin Falk’s game was real good, too.
 
Jagr, ancient only in the fact that he turns 41 next month, looked like vintage Jagr the night before in a win over Phoenix. But he followed a four-point night with gooseeggs on three shots in the only NHL arena he has never scored in.
 
“Good teams find a way to win and sometimes you’ve got to win 1-0, sometimes you’ve got to score four goals,” Yeo said. “Every night is different, every night is unique. Our guys battled and did everything we could. The battle level is unbelievable with this group.”
 
Both teams were playing back-to-back to open the season, and all fans should get used to this during this condensed, 48-game season. On every night, pretty much one of both teams will have played the night before.
 
So that could lead to some dead legs and some lulls, which this game had a few times. But all in all, it was a pretty good game with some open ice and plenty of chances for a 1-0 game.
 
But, with only six days of camp and no practices since, Yeo says it’ll be a work in progress. He noted how the players “tried to do things and couldn’t quite connect, without the puck, system-wise, they know where they’re supposed to be but kind of drift out of there.”
 
He did feel that the team is tired, so he won’t practice the guys Monday. They’ll have a morning skate Tuesday before playing Nashville that night to close the three-game homestand. Then, there’s a chance for consecutive practice days if Yeo so chooses before a two-game trip to Detroit and St. Louis.
 
That’s it for me. Since there is no practice, you may not hear from me Monday. But I will be on KFAN in studio from 9:35-10:15 a.m.
 

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