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 7-game winning streak ends; Kuemper sent down; Haula, Schmidt scuttlebutt

Posted by: Michael Russo under Gophers players, Wild game coverage Updated: March 29, 2013 - 11:48 PM

 

The Wild’s seven-game winning streak overall and five-game road winning streak came to an end tonight in Dallas when the Wild succumbed 5-3 to the Stars.
 
After battling back from a 2-0 deficit on goals by Devin Setoguchi and Jared Spurgeon, the Wild gave up two goals 68 seconds apart in the first 2:10 of the third period.
 
The second goal of the period was the killer, but the third goal you can bet is what aggravated coach Mike Yeo the most. The Wild battled back to tie the game and felt it was taking over. But then the third line of Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck and Dany Heatley got a little too exuberant and got way too deep in the offensive zone.
 
The Wild lost its third guy high and Erik Cole scored the go-ahead goal off his own deflected shot 1:02 in after Heatley couldn’t make it back to the slot in time.
 
Then, 58 seconds later, Mikko Koivu tripped Eric Nystrom. At the same time, Ryan Suter was called for cross-checking Jaromir Jagr across the elbow. He didn’t fall or anything. At worst, it was the type of love tap that occurs a gazillion times a game. If you’re going to call it, very rarely would it happen when you’ve already rung up another.
 
Nope, in a 3-2 game, referees Dan O’Halloran, who had a run-in with Koivu last weekennd in Minnesota, and Frederick L’Ecuyer sent off Koivu and Suter and gave Dallas a 2-minute 5-on-3. Ten seconds later, Jagr to Ray Whitney to Jamie Benn, and 4-2.
 
“A 3-2 game, and they call that,” Suter said. “They miss a high-stick in the first period [on Tom Gilbert] that [if it] puts us on the power play for four minutes, it’s probably a different game. It’s too the bad the refs don’t have to answer to anyone. I don’t want to get fined, but I feel we’re accountable. If we do something wrong, we have someone looking after us. I feel the refs need to have the same accountability.”
 
Ultimately, frustration boiled over, and Mike Rupp and Zenon Konopka tried to put Reilly Smuth in the Wild bench. Four players totally 36 penalty minutes in that sequence, with Rupp, Konopka and Antoine Roussel hitting the showers. Rupp gave O’Halloran a mock applause as he left the rink.
 
Soon after, Justin Falk took exception to Nystrom’s high hit and fought his former teammate. Later, Cody Eakin, who would add a power-play goal, cross-checked Cal Clutterbuck. Later, Aaron Rome took a penalty and Kyle Brodziak hog-tied him to the ice.
 
Was a frustrating game and it showed by the Wild’s play late. Torrey Mitchell did score on a delayed penalty in the final minute after Brenden Dillon punched Clutterbuck in the jaw.
 
But the Wild’s penalty kill, usually so flawless, was scored on three times. The Wild struggled in its own zone at times. Clayton Stoner, a plus-5 here on Monday, had some real tough moments, one on an odd-man rush that led to a Koivu minor and Whitney power-play goal in the first period, the other on a turnover, then slip and fall before Tomas Vincour’s first-period goal.
 
I’ve got to think at least Brett Clark makes his Wild debut against Los Angeles on Saturday. Most likely that would come for Justin Falk if it happens. If Nate Prosser gets in, Tom Gilbert would have to be the guy to come out because no chance Jonas Brodin or Spurgeon comes out.
 
The third line had some rough moments tonight, especially Heatley. Unless you’re pulling somebody there, no chance that can change though because Yeo’s not going to alter the first or second lines I don’t think.
 
Hackett had no chance on four of the five goals. He made some huge saves to keep the Wild in this game. Darcy Kuemper will be sent down obviously as Backstrom returns Saturday. Most likely, a forward will come back up for Kuemper. We will find out Saturday.
 
Setoguchi now has 12 goals and 20 points in the past 23 games. Matt Cullen now has 23 points in the last 21. Spurgeon now has five goals, four on the power play, which is tied for fourth in the NHL among defensemen. Koivu had an assist and now has 19 points in the past 16 games and a six-game point streak.
 
The theme of the postgame locker room was they’ve been playing good hockey. Don’t get down. Bounce back Saturday.
 
On a couple other subjects:

Erik Haula -- The Wild will let him decompress and then talk to him to see if he wants to sign. If so, the contract would start next year almost certainly and the team would look to sign him to an amateur tryout with Houston.

Nate Schmidt -- From corresponding with his advisor today, everything is too early and fresh after today's loss. They will talk over the weekend about his future.

In terms of the Wild, yes, the Wild has interest, but so should many teams and know this: I do get the sense from talking to people that Schmidt may look to avoid playing at home.

Schmidt will also have to be smart and analyze each team's depth chart to see where he'd fit if he chooses to leave school and where there's a clear route eventually to the NHL.

You don't want to get trapped behind six cemented defensemen and a horde of prospects. Lots of teams need good, young D (especially in the East), not just the Wild. Also, I think most teams will view Schmidt as somebody who needs time in the minors to grow. NHL scouts feel he has certain qualities that are very NHL ready -- one, namely, his shot -- but other things that must be groomed in the minors.

As you know, from covering him during the lockout, I'm a big fan. I think he's a quality player, terrific kid and a GREAT quote. But if you're a Wild fan, I wouldn't get your hopes up.

One correction: I wrote a few times this week the Wild had a season-high 42 shots in Dallas on Monday. They actually had 43 against Edmonton on March 3.

Lastly, again: if you didn't see this afternoon, I decided to make my Sunday Insider on the Jarome Iginla trade. The blog Q and A, barring something unforeseen, will appear in Monday's paper.

I will be on Beyond the Pond Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. and also on Fox Sports North Saturday night.

 

OK, very early flight. Talk to you Saturday. There may not be a morning skate – in fact, I’d be surprised, so we will find out the lineup later in the day than usual.

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