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 wins, it's in: Pominville out, Rupp returns tonight vs. Edmonton

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: April 26, 2013 - 12:18 PM
Oh, the drama.
 
The Columbus Blue Jackets won last night, meaning the Wild now controls its own destiny.
 
Two games left. One win and in.
 
The Wild can take care of business tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, who have won once in the past 10 games, scoring 13 goals in that stretch, and four of those came in the lone win at Colorado. The Wild is 19-1 in its past 20 at home vs. the Oilers. Niklas Backstrom is 17-0 at home vs. the Oilers with a 1.34 goals against average and .948 save percentage; 25-3-1 all-time vs. them.
 
“Nobody really expected us to get any help,” center Kyle Brodziak said. “The teams that are fighting for the playoffs spots, you’ve got to expect them to be winning games. … We knew we would have to do the same tonight. We set the bar of how we need to play to be successful. We beat the Stanley Cup champs [Tuesday] playing a certain way and we’ve got to expect to have to play like that to be able to beat Edmonton tonight.”
 
The Wild needs to win tonight. It’s the regular-season home finale, so you want to do it in front of the sold-out home crowd. Plus, you also want to try to win the last two to ensure that you avoid President’s Trophy-winning Chicago. You do not want to go into Colorado tomorrow having to win. That game – maybe Milan Hejduk’s last in the NHL – will be like the Final to the Avs, kind of like a few years ago when the Wild knocked off Dallas to eliminate the Stars and put the Blackhawks in.
 
A few days later, a Bud Light truck pulled up to former Wild forward Andrew Brunette’s Woodbury home with a thank-you gift from Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
 
Again, the simplest scenarios are this:
 
--Wild goes 2-0 and San Jose loses in regulation tomorrow at Los Angeles, and the Wild finishes sixth and plays Vancouver.
--Wild goes 2-0 and San Jose gets a point, the Wild finishes seventh and plays Anaheim
--Wild goes 1-1 (regulation, overtime or shootout win) and Detroit loses at Dallas Saturday in regulation, overtime or shootout), the Wild finishes seventh because of tiebreaker.
--Wild goes 1-1 and Detroit beats Dallas, the Wild finishes eighth.
--Wild goes 0-2 and Columbus loses in regulation to Nashville Saturday, the Wild finishes eighth.
--Wild goes 0-2 and Columbus gets a point Saturday, Wild is eliminated.
I’m not going to do the 1-0-1 scenarios right now.
First things first, win tonight, the Wild’s in and we’ll figure out the rest.
 
Either way, if the Wild wins tonight, we won’t know the Wild’s opponent until we see what the Wild does at Colorado tonight AND we see the outcomes of the San Jose-Los Angeles; Detroit-Dallas; Colorado-Nashville games.
 
“This is exciting. What more do you need to say?” coach Mike Yeo said. “We have to be ready to come and play a great game. We’ve got a chance to reach the goal of making the playoffs and to do it in front of our home crowd, it should be an exciting night.”
 
Jason Pominville will miss tonight’s game with what is obviously a head injury. The Wild’s still not saying concussion though and as I tweeted yesterday, Pominville says he’s just OK and the Wild will obviously play it safe.
 
Mike Rupp has declared himself ready to return from a knee injury tonight. That means Mike Rupp insurance Carson McMillan won’t play.
 
Torrey Mitchell will move up from the fourth line and take Pominville’s spot on the Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Brodziak line.
 
“I still have to play the same hard, structured type of game,” Brodziak said. “You lose a guy as important as [Pominville] is to our team, it’s tough to overcome. At the same time, a guy like Mitchell is an unbelievable player too. He’s a guy who hasn’t had all the greatest opportunity to show that this year, but everybody knows what he’s capable of.”
 
Brodziak called Mitchell, the former San Jose Sharks forward, a “fast, relentless forechecker, a very smart hockey player who knows where he’s got to be all over the ice.”
 
Yeo said on that line, Mitchell also knows his role is to go north with pucks and get to the net.
 
By the way, for the first time since Jacques Lemaire won the Jack Adams in 2003, the Wild has a chance to have guys go after multiple awards. The Wild is campaigning hard for Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin to win the Norris and Calder, respectively, and honestly, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu should get some Selke votes (Wes Walz was a finalist once) and guys like Matt Cullen and Jared Spurgeon should get tabs for the Lady Byng.
 
On Suter and Brodin, Yeo said, “To me, they’re tap-ins. It’s automatic, and I could add a couple other guys for lists for awards.”
 
Yeo then caught himself (my fault, I asked the question): “I’d prefer once the season is over to talk about this because right now the only award that anybody wants is the team one. We have an opportunity to get ourselves into the playoffs tonight and again, it’s an exciting day.”
 
Talk to you tonight. I’ll be on Dan Barreiro’s show on KFAN at 4:35 p.m. and on NHL Network live from the arena cam at 5:40 p.m.

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