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's lineup update for tonight's game at Edmonton

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 21, 2013 - 1:43 PM
Niklas Backstrom will make his first start in seven nights tonight when the Wild visits the Edmonton Oilers. Backstrom missed Sunday’s 3-2 win over Detroit when he came down with the flu and Darcy Kuemper was a last-second substitution.
 
Johan Larsson, Justin Falk and Zenon Konopka will be the scratches. Right now Larsson will stay with the team because now that the team’s brought him to Alberta, there’s no sense in sending him back in case he is needed to play in Calgary on Saturday.
 
That would be neat for the kid. He captained Sweden to gold there in January 2012 at the world juniors. Jonas Brodin, who also won gold, got a chance to play in Calgary last week and played great alongside Ryan Suter.
 
Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be back in the lineup for the Wild and back with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck. He missed the last game against Detroit because of an illness. All other lines and pairings the same. Top line together. Jason Zucker stays with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. Mikael Granlund with Mike Rupp and Torrey Mitchell.
 
In 13 games this year, Bouchard amazingly has two goals and one assist, including no assists since the second game of the season. That’s shocking for a talented playmaker. The Oilers are the team he munches on more than anybody else, so if he doesn’t break out tonight, one has to wonder if it’ll happen.
 
Coach Mike Yeo said more so than results, “I want to see him play a good game. I want to see him using his speed, attacking. I want to see the little plays in his game, making sure he’s playing the right way without the puck, playing well along the walls and being a guy that is tough to deal with because of his speed and skill.”
 
Remember, Bouchard was a healthy scratch in Vancouver recently and played the fourth line the two games before. He is in the last year of his contract and clearly will be moving on after this year or before the trade deadline.
 
Devan Dubnyk (5-4-3, 2.76 GAA, .918 SP) gets the start for Edmonton. Veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney is a healthy scratch.
 
Hopefully you saw my story today on Nick Schultz and Tom Gilbert playing their first games against their original teams since the Feb. 27, 2012, trade.
 
Gilbert got together with his fiancée, Larissa’s, family last night. She hails from Edmonton and hadn’t seen them since he was traded. Schultz went to dinner with good pal and former road roommate Mikko Koivu, a couple other ex-teammates, athletic therapist Don Fuller and equipment manager Tony DaCosta last night.
 
“It was good to catch up,” said Schultz, who is very close with guys like Fuller and DaCosta. “They were there my whole time in Minnesota.”
 
Brodin went to dinner last night with Oilers first-round pick Oscar Klefbom, who is in from Sweden. They are childhood friends and won gold together at world juniors.
 
I chatted with former Wild draft pick Ryan Jones this morning. The Oilers forward is working his way back from a scary eye injury he sustained at Ridder Arena during one of the lockout scrimmages in December when a puck deflected off Matt Cullen’s skate and nailed him in the left eye. He underwent surgery six hours later.
 
He also had an amazingly scary incident in December being detained by U.S. customs at the North Dakota border for a case of mistaken identity. After guns were drawn on he and his wife, Jones was in handcuffs for two hours.
 
Minus the handcuffs and guns, when myself and photographer Carlos Gonzalez were returning from the Derek Boogaard fight camp four or five years ago in Regina, Sask., we got detained at the same border for an hour or two for reasons still unknown to us. We had to hustle to our plane in Minot, N.D., afterward.
 
I’ll write about Jones in tomorrow’s paper.
 
That’s it for me right now. I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame and first intermission tonight.
 

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