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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Koivu, Granlund face an old foe tonight in Anaheim

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 1, 2013 - 3:04 PM

The Wild, 2-0-1 in its past three, opens a two-game road trip tonight at 9 p.m. CT in Anaheim at the beautiful Honda Center.

Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 28 of 28 shots in relief of Josh Harding on Wednesday against Chicago, gets the nets against a 30-year-old NHL rookie named Viktor Fasth.

Fasth, a two-time Swedish Elite Goalie of the Year, was the goaltender Finland lit up for six goals in the 2011 world championships gold-medal game.

The Wild's Mikko Koivu captained that team, which included Wild second-line center Mikael Granlund.

Fasth is 1-0 in one start with a 1.85 goals against average and .905 save percentage. That was a 3-2 shootout win over Nashville on Jan. 26.

Same Wild lineup tonight, meaning Matt Kassian and Nate Prosser are scratched. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau alluded to Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen making his NHL debut. Ducks media guesses Boudreau either dresses seven defensemen or Toni Lydman comes out.

I will be on Fox Sports North during Wild Live at 8:30 p.m. and again during the first intermission.

Jared Spurgeon skated this morning for the Wild. He said his foot is getting better, but it's frustrating. He will miss his fifth game tonight.

I've gotten a lot of emails and Twitter questions about the Wild's use of iPad's on the bench this season. I'll lead my notebook in tomorrow's paper with that.

Assistant coach Darryl Sydor is the one using it on the bench. Coach Mike Yeo says half the time he sees him playing solitaire. Untrue. Sydor told me, "I just follow you on Twitter."

I better be nicer to the team then.

Couple other things:

--As you know, the Wild has used right-shot D Tom Gilbert on the No. 1 power-play unit the past three games because the five lefty No. 1 unit just wasn't clicking. I asked Yeo if he would start doing that on the 5-on-3 after the scoreless one for 1:23 against Chicago.

Yeo said he is not planning to, that the Wild's 5-on-3 is 2-for-3 this season with the all lefty personnel and he liked the 5-on-3 the other night -- 2 missed nets, a broken stick and a Corey Crawford's head-first save to rob Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Yeo did say he'd like to see Bouchard shoot more though when I asked about Bouchard's drop pass after he skated himself into a one-on-one with Crawford.

--Ryan Suter's playing well the last few games and if you read my blog the other night, he did it with little sleep and a lot of IV's because of illness. He said, however, that he is much better now.

--Gamesmanship from the Ducks "maybe," Yeo said, this morning. The Wild was ready to skate at 11:15 a.m. and thought they were going to. When they got out to the ice, the sheet wasn't resurfaced. A clearly agitated Yeo skated over to the Zamboni door looking for the Zamboni driver.

Finally, the driver began to resurface as Wild players stood or sat waiting from the bench. At 11:30 a.m. sharp -- the normal scheduled time for road morning skates -- the driver left the rink. You can bet the Wild will remember this March 12 when the Ducks come to town.



--Lastly, how's the weather back in Minnesota? Here's a couple shots from Orange County yesterday.






Detroit - M. Scherzer 4:37 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Kansas City - J. Vargas 8:07 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Minnesota 7:25 PM
Green Bay
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Minnesota 7:00 PM
St. Louis
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Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
UCF 6:00 PM
Arizona 9:30 PM
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San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
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Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
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(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
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(13) Georgia
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Northern Ill
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Appalachian St
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Western Ky
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New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
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(8) UCLA
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Chicago 7:00 PM
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Brt Columbia
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