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 practice update/Monday, Jan. 28

Posted by: Rachel Blount under On the road, Wild practice Updated: January 28, 2013 - 4:48 PM

Rachel B here, checking in while Russo gets his technological problems solved.

In this compressed season, Wild coach Mike Yeo said it will be particularly challenging to balance practice time with rest. Monday, he gave Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter a respite from the team's workout, but he noted it was important for the Wild to get back on the ice and address some of the shortcomings that hurt it in last weekend's 0-2 road trip.

Zach Parise, who had four goals and an assist in a 5-3 loss at Detroit and a 5-4 overtime loss at St. Louis, sounded just a little exasperated. The Wild was undone by ill-advised penalties, defensive lapses and a lack of attention to details such as line changes in St. Louis. He lauded the Blues' relentlessness and said the Wild would do well to take notes, as they seek to get back over .500 in Tuesday's game against Columbus at Xcel Energy Center.

"It's not a systems thing,'' he said. "It's a willingness to keep doing the right things over and over again. It's good for us to see it on video and watch a team like St. Louis. They play the right way. They kept making our D go back and retrieve pucks all night. They made it hard on our D and hard on our team. It's good for us to see them doing it and see how well it works.

"It's more important for us to not allow ourselves to keep making the same mistakes over and over again, especially in a shorter season. We have to recognize what we're doing wrong, what's not working, and start doing things on a more consistent basis. We haven't seen that yet. It's a challenge for us to start doing that.''

Despite the performance of his line--which has accounted for 10 of the team's 13 goals--Parise said that if the Wild is not winning, it means he and linemates Koivu and Dany Heatley can do more. Yeo said he will not break up that group, but he is contemplating some tinkering with the other lines to try and find a spark.

Koivu said he is not concerned with the lack of scoring from other lines. "As long as we're getting chances, it's going to start going in,'' he said. "We're getting chances, and that's a good thing. Sometimes, it's not easy to get that first one ... I'm sure it will come.

"System-wise, we can do a better job. I know it well, but it's only been two weeks for some of the guys. Also, the mindset. It doesn't matter what happens, you have to keep playing the way we want and believe it's going to bring success for us. ... We have to earn it. We're on our way there.''

Yeo also was emphasizing the positive. He pointed out the good things he saw in the loss to the Blues and said the biggest problem was that he didn't see those things sustained throughout the game. He pointed to his top line as an example that the rest of the team should follow, to see how to play the right way on every shift.

He liked the team's defensive intensity, he said, and thinks the second, third and fourth lines have gotten some good scoring chances but need to generate more. "We don't need to blow it all up here,'' he said. "We don't need to panic, because there are opportunities there that are just not going in. We scored four goals (against the Blues). That's enough to win a hockey game. There were too many other things taking place (to cause the loss).''

Yeo also said he was happy with Marco Scandella's play at St. Louis in his first game since being recalled from Houston, where he had just rejoined the lineup Friday after sitting out five weeks with a groin injury. He also stood up for Suter, who is a team-worst -5. The defenseman, he said, is putting a lot of pressure on himself, and Yeo said he is answering constant questions about Suter's struggles.

"We're asking so much of him,'' said Yeo, who credited Suter with playing "a couple of really strong games'' on the road trip. "He's coming to a new team and a new system. He's done so many good things, yet there's still talk about some of the bad things that have happened for him. A lot of them, most of them, almost all of them are out of his control. With a guy like that, let's be fair with our expectations.

"It's not going to happen that a defenseman is on the ice and the other team is never going to score. That stuff's going to happen. What's important is that his game has been getting better every game. What's important is what he adds to our team.''

Everyone is healthy other than defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who still is coping with a bone bruise in his foot. He tried to practice Monday but didn't last long. "Possibly,'' Yeo said when asked if Spurgeon could play Tuesday. "He came out and tried (to practice), but it wasn't great, so I'm not sure.''

 

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