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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Matt Hackett getting the nod tonight for Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 29, 2013 - 12:20 PM

UPDATED

The Wild looks to win its eighth consecutive game tonight when it takes the ice at Dallas' American Airlines Center, the site of its sixth consecutive victory only four nights ago.

In that win, the Wild scored a season-high seven goals and registered a season-high 42 shots as it three times rallied from a goal down and one time recovered from surrendering the tying goal. That win was the Wild's first in Dallas since March 21, 2003.

The Wild returned home and beat Phoenix in overtime on Wednesday. The Stars? They haven't played since, bizarrely enough.

Remember when at one point this year, the Wild scored one regulation goal in six consecutive games? The Wild has scored four or more now in eight of the past 14 games and have climbed from 30th in goals per game (2.06) in the NHL on Feb. 26 to 14th today (2.72).

Mikko Koivu has six goals and 16 points in the past 12 games and 2-point games in his past three (plus-10 his past 10). Ryan Suter has 23 points in the past 22 games (plus-9 last 7 games, coming off a game where he scored the tying goal in the last minute and had six shots in 29:54 of ice time). He is also one assist and one point from tying injured Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang for first in those categories among NHL blue-liners.

TONIGHT'S GAME IS ON FSN-PLUS!!!!

Same forwards, obviously. Defense, same lineup. Coach Mike Yeo said he knows there was a lot of criticism of Justin Falk and Tom Gilbert after the Phoenix game, and he knows they've played better, but he says he only recorded two scoring chances against after reviewing the film (of course, they each took a penalty, too).

It sounds very likely that Brett Clark will make his Wild debut tomorrow against the Kings.

To keep the hot streak alive, the Wild will need to do so with young goalie Matt Hackett in net tonight. That is unconfirmed at the moment but what I am hearing.

Hackett, 23, a third-round pick in 2009, will make his season debut. He went 3-6 in 12 games last year with a 2.37 goals against average and .922 save percentage. He won his first game in relief in San Jose and won his first start in L.A.

He has only played one game in the past 3-plus weeks, but Yeo said the Wild is anxious to take a look at home tonight. Obviously, tough game for Hackett, especially with the nerves of backstopping a team he knows is on a roll.

Niklas Backstrom, who started 12 in a row and 16 of the past 17 games, remained in the Twin Cities to rest up for Saturday's home game against the Los Angeles Kings, who is waiting there for Minnesota to return after tonight's game. I assume he doesn't get his $100 a day per diem.

With both Darcy Kuemper and Hackett up now, Aeros GM Jim Mill signed ECHL Bakersfield goalie Brian Stewart to a professional tryout. That's eight Houston goalies this year now. Stewart will likely be dismissed tomorrow though as the Wild will assuredly reassign Kuemper or Hackett and recall a forward again. Since Hackett is starting today, it may be Kuemper.

The Wild once again will be looking to retake the top spot in the Northwest Division.The Wild has Vancouver Canucks have been flip-flopping spots daily for more than a week. The Canucks have won six in a row, are in the midst of the most cupcake schedule imaginable (10 straight games against teams outside the top-8) and have played two more games than Minnesota.

But this is why the Wild must keep winning.

By the way, remember that blog Q and A that was supposed to run in my Sunday Insider? I decided to write about Jarome Iginla on Sunday, so the Q and A is now scheduled to run in Monday's newspaper. The Wild has Sunday off, so Monday's a good day for that to run.

 

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