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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Backstrom vs. Mason expected tonight when the Wild hosts Nashville

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild pregame skate Updated: January 22, 2013 - 12:54 PM
Niklas Backstrom will make his second start of the season tonight when the Wild hosts Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators. Chris Mason is expected to get the nod tonight for Nashville after Pekka Rinne played last night at home in a shootout loss to St. Louis.
 
Good afternoon from the X.
 
Backstrom won the season opener, 4-2, vs. Colorado with 25 saves. He wasn’t overly pleased with his performance.
 
But despite Josh Harding’s 1-0 shutout over Dallas, coach Mike Yeo said the team feels it’s important to use both goalies in the early going so they each get into a rhythm and groove with so many games in a short period.
 
“Backs played great the first game, too,” Yeo said after praising Harding’s game. “I think it’s real important early in this year that we give both guys a chance to get a feel and get some games in.”
 
Yeo also said he wanted to see how Harding “reacts,” referring to his MS and how he recovers after his first start. But Yeo said Harding feels great and the main the reason for throwing Backstrom into the cage was getting both goalies in a rhythm.
 
If you didn’t see my story on Ryan Suter playing Nashville for the first time, check out www.startribune.com/wild. Funny moment during the Suter press scrum this morning. Zenon Konopka walked in and drew big laughter when he yelled, “They didn’t want ya, Suts. Didn’t want ya.”
 
Suter said he talked to GM David Poile, who was not happy when he chose Minnesota over Nashville, on the bench before the Wild skate.
 
“Just a classy guy, a lot of respect for him,” Suter said of Poile. “I’ll always respect and appreciate him.”
 
Suter said tonight’s game will be a little nerve-wracking.
 
Matt Kassian and Matt Dumba will be scratched for the third game in a row. The Wild’s coming off a 1-0 win, so Yeo’s not about to be making any changes.
 
I asked Yeo how the team is weighing the decision to either keep scratching Dumba or sending him back to junior, and Yeo said the experience is a valuable one.
 
“Even though he hasn’t played a game, he’s participating in practices, he’s participating in warmup,” Yeo said. “For a guy like that to be around NHL players and not only have the chance to skate and practice with them, but to also see how they prepare and how they conduct themselves, it’s been very valuable to him.”
 
He is still an injury away from playing as the Wild waits for Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella to be healthy. Brodin may play tomorrow in Milwaukee, and then we’ll see what happens.
 
But there’s a chance right now Dumba takes the road trip to Detroit and St. Louis for his first taste of being on the road with an NHL team. But barring injuries, my guess is Dumba returns to Red Deer soon.
 
And again, his five-game ticker before a year of his contract burns off only counts for games he plays in.
 
That’s it for right now. Talk to you tonight. I will also be on NHL Live on NHL Network at 5:30 p.m. CT and Fox Sports North during tonight’s pregame show and first intermission.

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