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 scores four goals, moves into top-8 in the West

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 1, 2013 - 8:14 PM
UPDATED THE END (NO MORNING SKATE SO LINEUP UPDATE LIKELY A COUPLE HOURS BEFORE GAME)
 
Darcy Kuemper will get the start tonight. Zenon Konopka in for Mikael Granlund; Nate Prosser in for Justin Falk.
 
With the Coyotes’ (lack of) ownership situation again tumultuous and relocation an undoubted threat, the 10-7-2 Wild may have played its final game in the desert.
 
If so, it went out with a bang, scoring four goals for the first time since Jan. 27 and making things tense in the end before pulling out a 4-3 win over the Coyotes.
 
Don’t look now, but the 10-7-2 Wild’s in eighth again – and is two points behind Vancouver for the division lead.
 
Read the gamer for details (the Wild's 8-2-2 now in one-goal games) and the notebook for some funny Charlie Coyle stuff.
 
But Dany Heatley scored two goals and Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon one each. Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi had two assists each and made that second line go at least early.
 
It’s clear Mike Yeo wasn’t completely happy with the line defensively. Last game against Calgary, penalties limited their ice time. Tonight, penalties can’t really be the reason.
 
Zucker played only 7 minutes, Setoguchi 10, and when a reporter asked about the line, he subtly said, “They got us started, for sure. But I thought we had everybody going.”
 
Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves, and despite giving up the world’s flukiest goal with 4:29 left when Keith Yandle’s chip in off the glass hit a partition and bounced awkwardly in, he was great when they needed him. So critical to play well with Josh Harding sidelined, Backstrom is 5-1-1 with a 1.66 goals against average and .933 save percentage in his past seven starts.
 
Jonas Brodin was his typical awesome self. The plays this 19-year-old makes in his own zone is stuff veterans would never dream of. He was plus-2 – plus-3 until the Shane Doan goal in the last minute – Doan’s 323rd to tie Keith Tkachuk for second in Jets/Coyotes history.
 
Ryan Suter, who had another outstanding night on the back end, also assisted on the first Heatley goal. The NHL’s ice time leader (27:34 a game) has 12 assists, which is tied for third among NHL defensemen, and eight in his past nine games.
 
Nice to see the Wild score some goals tonight and jump out to an early lead for a change. Yeo made a really good point after the game. The Wild entered tonight 29th in offense.
 
“A big part of why we haven’t been scoring three, four, five goals a game is because we’re not scoring early or we’re not putting the other team behind, so it changes the way that they play,” Yeo said.
 
His point is in the Western Conference especially, teams are so good defensively and play so well with the lead, teams are able to sit back more and execute better when they force the Wild to chase almost immediately every game.
 
Clearly the Wild showed tonight that if it gets the lead – only second time in 11 games tonight – it’s got the ability to pot a couple goals.
 
I got a bunch of tweets upset with the personnel on the ice in the last minute. I was busy writing, particularly the defensemen, but Suter and Brodin were on for the goal in the last minute, so I'm assuming they were extended and tired. Yeo went with defensive forwards and two centers in case the draw was lost (I think; again, I was writing to file for first edition and web the second the game ended).
 
Friday’s game in Anaheim will be interesting. That team is riding high. Seven wins in a row at home. They can score, defend and make your life miserable. The Wild’s worst game by far this season came in Anaheim four weeks ago.
 
We’ll see how it goes. Early flight to So. Cal. Talk to you before the game with a lineup update from Honda Center.
 
The Wild isn't skating Friday morning, so it may take until a couple hours before the game to know if Yeo is coming back with Backstrom or if Darcy Kuemper is starting and if Zenon Konopka and Nate Prosser are playing.
 
I'd think Konopka at least plays and Prosser should. Justin Falk was minus-2. I'd think Kuemper starts, but not positive.

Lastly, as you know by now, the Wild gets leadership training from Arizona-based former U.S. Army Ranger JB Spisso (eliteleadershiptraining.com). Check this link out: Last week on the History Channel, he was a contestant on the show, Ultimate Soldier Challenge.

 
 

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