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 looks to rediscover its game Sunday against Marian Gaborik and the Columbus Blue Jackets

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 6, 2013 - 2:25 PM

Marian Gaborik, the all-time leading scorer in Wild history, somebody who would have been an original Columbus Blue Jacket and not Rostislav Klesla if the Wild hadn't won a coin flip to allow it to pick 3rd before the 2000 draft, will make his home debut Sunday night (5 p.m. CT).

It comes in the same arena -- Nationwide -- where Gaborik played his final game as a Wild on April 11, 2009. He scored two goals, one assist that game, the same game Jacques Lemaire announced after would be his last behind the Wild bench. Three or four days later, the Doug Risebrough era came to an end, too.

Oh, the memories

Now Gaborik plays for Todd Richards, the former Wild coach who never got to coach Gaborik because he signed a five-year deal with the Rangers. On Wednesday, Gaborik waived his no-trade clause to join the Wild's expansion cousins.

The Jackets, who have played great hockey for awhile behind BOB (Sergei Bobrovsky), are a desperate team right now, so the Wild should expect their best effort. Columbus' loss in St. Louis on Friday night was its third in regulation in the past 19 (11-3-5). The Wild has won six games in history in Columbus, and the Jackets currently have a 12-game home point streak going -- no regulation home losses since Feb. 10 (9-0-3).

This is a hard-working, fast team that became even faster with the acquisition of Gaborik, whom we all know doesn't need too many chances to make you hurt.

You know he'll be jacked (no pun intended) up Sunday to debut in front of the Jackets' faithful.

The Wild, it will be looking to rediscover its game after three consecutive losses and four in the past five. Today at Nationwide, the Wild had its first real practice in 14 days. The legs feel better, the spirits are high and the Wild says it's time to get its act together.

After Sunday, the Wild returns home for a three-game homestand, so a win in a tough arena Sunday could result in a much-needed exhale of relief.

The Wild will be without Dany Heatley and Matt Cullen though. Heatley's injury is not a wrist, by the way, but we'll stick with upper body. But the guess is he'll be out at least a week or more. He did make the trip from California with the team for treatment but coach Mike Yeo said the Wild may send him home to see the doc. Cullen has been home with his lower body injury and Yeo hopes he'll be close to a return when the Wild gets back to Minnesota.

Niklas Backstrom vs. the BOB. Backstrom was yanked after giving up two goals on two shots Thursday in L.A.  He is 20-2-4 in his first start after being pulled with a 1.91 goals against average, 16-0-2 since March 26, 2008 with a 1.69 goals against average and .943 save percentage.

Yeo indicated he may tinker with the blue line against the Jackets, so we'll see if that means Justin Falk AND Nate Prosser get in or just one.

Lots of questions lately about why Jason Zucker isn't here. He is tearing it up in Houston again.

I agree with you and my guess is it's coming. There will be 10 games left after Sunday. The only priority should be putting the best lineup on the ice that will help win games, not worrying about hurting feelings.

The problem is there's only a couple guys that could come out, so my gut tells me Pierre-Marc Bouchard, whose game has slipped again, best have a good one against Columbus or we could see Zucker up by the homestand. The Wild needs Zucker's speed, energy and goal-scoring ability. 

A lot of questions why Mikael Granlund got the call instead of Zucker in the first place. I agree with you there, too. I can only say that without Cullen, the Wild felt it needed a center and the Wild feels Charlie Coyle is best used as a winger. But I wasn't particularly impressed with Granlund's game in L.A, so man, the Wild needs Cullen back bigtime if the Wild feels it doesn't have a better option at center.

For more on the running-hot Jackets and their desperation level, here is the blog of Columbus Dispatch ace beat writer Aaron Portzline.

Talk to you after Sunday's morning skates.

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