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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Cullen injured as the Wild suffers its worst loss in week at the hands of St. Louis

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: April 1, 2013 - 11:19 PM

 

The Wild was handed a good, old fashioned “wakeup call” tonight when the St. Louis Blues took a 4-1 victory from the X.
 
The Wild was flat as a pancake and looked like a tired, slow team. Zach Parise said the Wild deserved what they got and looked like the version of the Wild that started this season – not competitive and too many turnovers, oh, and one with a gruesome power play.
 
Obviously, it’s just one loss. It happens. Teams lay an egg in this league, and frankly, it has been a long, long time since the Wild’s done that. The Wild hadn’t lost by more than two goals since Feb. 7.
 
But what’s concerning is bad habits have crept back into the Wild’s game the past three or four games and the Wild’s gotten away with it because of last-minute tying goals and overtime winners and rallies followed by shootout wins.
 
That masked some glaring issues. Tonight, the Wild couldn’t hide from its very ticked off fans.
 
The power play killed momentum, then killed the game in the second period. After Dany Heatley tied the score at 1-1, the Wild forced St. Louis into three straight icings. It then drew another power play, but that one was a momentum-douser. The Blues responded by making it 3-1, and then the Wild failed dramatically on its next two power plays.
 
The Wild also lost center Matt Cullen with what I think is a lower-body injury. He took an awkward fall near the boards across from the benches by the blue line near the end of the second. He was skating gingerly after that and didn’t return in the third period.
 
Coach Mike Yeo didn’t have an update but said he would provide one after Tuesday’s optional practice and before its flight to San Jose. If serious, we’ll see if that changes Chuck Fletcher’s approach going into Wednesday’s 2 p.m. CT trade deadline. If not, the Wild will need a center from Houston. The centers there are Johan Larsson, Mikael Granlund, Jake Dowell, David McIntyre, Chad Rau and Carson McMillan.
 
Another option would be to recall Jason Zucker, I suppose, and move one of the wingers up here in Minnesota to center.
 
No new news on the Ryane Clowe front. All I can tell you is the Wild is very much involved in trade talks, but it all has to do with the price to get him and how much an extension will cost. The Wild will not give up its blue-chippers, but it does have plenty of other prospects it may be willing to part with if you can get Clowe extended on a sensible contract. I’m not sure the contract he’s looking for would be considered sensible though.
 
The guy is a horse though. Power forward built for the playoffs that also would give the Wild a true big body in the middle on the No. 1 power play.
 
I’ll also be interested to see if tonight was Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s last game with the Wild or if Fletcher looks for another top-4 defenseman.
 
Sabres captain Jason Pominville is reportedly on the block now, too.
 
Jay Bouwmeester was traded to the Blues right at the end of the first period tonight. It was clear something was going on before the game because I ran into GM Doug Armstrong as he was getting off the phone in a hidden area in the bowels of the arena. I sat with St. Louis Dispatch writer Jeremy Rutherford for dinner and we guessed something was going on with Bouwmeester.
 
Big trade, and players did get a jolt from it. During the first intermission, word did start to trickle in the Blues room.
 
Also tonight, goalie Jaroslav Halak suffered a lower-body injury. Ken Hitchcock said he could be out for awhile, so now the Blues may need to be in the market for a goalie.
 
The Wild has had almost no practice time lately. It doesn’t have another full practice scheduled until Saturday in Columbus. All the practices lately have come in morning gameday skates or optionals. Tuesday’s is optional, too.
 
I asked Parise tonight if the Wild needs to get back on the ice for a practice refresher, and he said the issue is actually rest. The Wild’s played six games in 10 nights, and before that stretch, had a trip to Denver, Vancouver and Detroit.
 
The problem is despite being six points up on eighth, this is still a fragile league where teams cannot afford to slip even for a few games. The Wild can’t let fatigue inundate its game, and despite it being real, it can’t afford to use it as an excuse.
 
Every night the Wild is going to be playing desperate teams. In fact, the next three games are at San Jose, Los Angeles and Columbus – three teams behind Minnesota in the standings and fighting for playoff spots or positioning. The Wild needs to keep gobbling up points.
 
The Wild needs to get back to doing what makes them successful – possessing pucks, getting out of its own end and in on the forecheck. Playing hard. Playing fast.
 
“We just have to make sure whatever we do next game, we have to be ready from the start of the game to play the way we’re capable,” Kyle Brodziak said.
 
OK, I’m spent. Like I said, tough loss, but it’s one loss. It happens. The key will be recovering in some very hostile buildings.
 
Rachel is covering the Tuesday practice and will provide Cullen updates. I have an early flight to San Jose, and obviously, if there’s any breaking Wild news in terms of trades, I’ll have the news on here and on Twitter (@russostrib).
 
That’s it for me. On the road again…

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