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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Coyle, Cullen, Konopka tidbits as Wild visits Phoenix

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 28, 2013 - 2:00 PM
The Wild, 5-2-1 in its past eight, looks to win its second in a row tonight when it visits the Phoenix Coyotes, who have points in 11 of 14.
 
Niklas Backstrom vs. Mike Smith, who is starting for the 16th time in 20 games (missed three with a groin injury).
 
The Wild maybe catches a break. Martin Hanzal (upper body) and Radim Vrbata (lower body) won’t play. Derek Morris is a game-time decision. The Wild can’t chase this team. The Coyotes almost always win when they score first and the Wild has given up the first goal in six straight and nine of 10.
 
The Wild averages 2.06 goals per game. In elementary school, I learned this nugget: If the Wild gives up the first goal, it would need to then score its average TWO goals to just overtake the Coyotes.
 
That could be a chore.
 
I’ll be on Fox Sports North tonight. Wild Live at 7:30, then the first intermission.
 
Check out tomorrow’s game notebook: I have some real funny stuff from Charlie Coyle about his call from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan after his high check on Matt Stajan. Coyle was basically in “awe” to speak to the type of player he actually aspires to be.
 
“I almost wanted to ask for an autograph, though it was probably the wrong time,” Coyle said, laughing.
 
He said when Shanahan said he was going to let the hit slide but to be careful next time, “it was a big sigh of relief. Thank God.”
 
Matt Cullen, playing so, so well for the Wild, is ecstatic Moorhead advanced to the State tournament. His alma mater beat Brainerd last night and is coached by his former high school teammate and cousin, Peter Cullen (Matt’s dad’s brother’s kid).
 
They texted back and forth this morning and Cullen has an off-day Thursday, so he plans to go to the Spuds’ game at the X.
 
Had a good talk with Zenon Konopka today, who was voted to be the Wild’s player rep without volunteering for it (ha), about realignment. He said this thing has a chance to blow up completely because the NHLPA is worried about the imbalance of teams between the East and West. I’ll write about that in Sunday’s paper and talk about it tonight on FSNorth.
 
Dave Tippett, Mike Yeo’s former coach and in a lot of ways mentor, is juggling his lines yet again tonight (wow, all coaches do this?):
 
Mikkel Boedker – Antoine Vermette– Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres – Matt Lombardi – Shane Doan
Steve Sullivan– Boyd Gordon – David Moss
Paul Bissonnette – Kyle Chipchura– Nick Johnson
 
Keith Yandle – Derek Morris
Zbynek Michalek – Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Michael Stone – Rostislav Klesla
 
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
 
Scratches: David Rundblad, Chris Summers.
 
The Wild:
 
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Matt Cullen-Devin Setoguchi
Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Mikael Granlund-Dany Heatley
Mike Rupp-Kyle Brodziak-Torrey Mitchell
 
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Justin Falk-Tom Gilbert
Clayton Stoner-Jared Spurgeon
 
Niklas Backstrom
Darcy Kuemper
 
Scratches: Zenon Konopka and Nate Prosser
 
My guess is Konopka plays tomorrow in Anaheim against the big, high-flying Ducks and maybe Prosser. No goalie decision yet, coach Mike Yeo said, but with so many games and so much travel and a home game Sunday, why risk Backstrom’s health by playing him tired tomorrow? I’d start Kuemper.
 
My big question: Is this my last game I’ll ever be covering in the Arizona desert?
 
Talk to you tonight.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 77 4th Qtr 9:50
Philadelphia 83
Houston 62 3rd Qtr 8:46
Boston 48
Portland 53 3rd Qtr 8:33
Atlanta 55
Sacramento 44 3rd Qtr 12:00
Cleveland 55
Toronto 70 3rd Qtr 9:56
Brooklyn 57
Dallas 18 2nd Qtr 6:27
Miami 24
LA Clippers 42 2nd Qtr 4:13
New Orleans 47
Golden State 8:00 PM
Utah
Chicago 9:30 PM
Phoenix
Pittsburgh 0 3rd Prd
New Jersey 0
St. Louis 2 3rd Prd 19:31
Carolina 2
Nashville 8:00 PM
Colorado
Buffalo 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Chicago 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 50 2nd Half 0:45
Canisius 57
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 77 2nd Half 2:05
Manhattan 81
Marist 61 2nd Half 0:28
Niagara 59
Dartmouth 51 2nd Half 1:11
Penn 54
Oregon 34 2nd Half
Arizona State 29
Yale 35 2nd Half
Columbia 32
Monmouth 29 2nd Half
Fairfield 22
IUPUI 27 2nd Half
Western Ill 28
Oregon State 9:00 PM
Arizona
Kent State 9:00 PM
Buffalo
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Elon 54 2nd Half 2:05
James Madison 86
(9) Florida State 81 2nd Half 0:44
Georgia Tech 58
Loyola-Chicago 53 2nd Half 1:11
Southern Ill 58
Georgetown 20 1st Half 0:12
DePaul 48
Villanova 34 1st Half 2:10
Marquette 25
Wichita State 29 2nd Half
Northern Iowa 12
Xavier 28 2nd Half
Creighton 38
Bradley 34 1st Half 0:31
Illinois State 24
Missouri State 42 2nd Half
Drake 49
Arizona 8:00 PM
Utah
(11) Arizona State 8:00 PM
Colorado
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