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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Jason Pominville will miss Game 1 tonight against Chicago

Posted by: Michael Russo under Stanley Cup, Wild pregame skate Updated: April 30, 2013 - 1:13 PM
Jason Pominville has been ruled out of tonight’s opening game of the Wild’s Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks by coach Mike Yeo.
 
Good morning from the United Center. A reminder, I will be hosting a live chat on startribune.com/wild at 3 p.m. CT. Please join in.
 
The Wild left Minnesota yesterday completely confident Pominville would play after practicing yesterday. But Pominville, who missed the regular season’s final two games after being elbowed in the head by Dustin Brown, woke up not feeling well today, I hear.
 
Yeo wouldn’t confirm that when I asked but said Pominville is “just not quite ready. This is a big game, but you’ve got to look at the big picture and we have to make sure that when we get him back in, we get him back in for good.”
 
That means the Wild will go back with the lines of the final two games:
 
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Matt Cullen-Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Mike Rupp-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell.
 
So, Clutterbuck moves back up to the third line, Mitchell slide back from center to right wing on the fourth and Konopka, slated to be a scratch, plays.
 
Defense pairs will be:
 
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert
 
Suter and Brodin pretty much played half the game down the stretch. They will obviously see huge minutes in the postseason, but Yeo said one reason why the Wild recalled Scandella is so Scandella and Spurgeon, partners in Houston when Yeo’s Aeros went to the Calder Cup Finals in 2011, can eat more minutes.
 
Nine Wild players – Brodin, Gilbert, Stoner, Brodziak, Coyle, Zucker, Clutterbuck, Scandella and Spurgeon – will make their Stanley Cup playoff debuts tonight. I talked to a few of these guys this morning and will quote them in tomorrow’s paper. Coyle can’t get over how far he’s come in a year. Last year, he was in college at Boston University and then playing junior for eventual Quebec League champ Saint John.
 
NO Blackhawks players are debuting, unless you include backup Henrik Karlsson.
 
I talked to Nick Leddy, and the former Gopher and Minnesota Mr. Hockey is excited to face the team he grew up watching in the playoffs. Leddy has some history with the Wild, too, although I can’t remember right now what it is.
 
Leddy said his family and buddies back home are excited for the series and will be at the games at the X.
 
In 2011, when the Wild pushed the Blackhawks into the eighth seed by beating the Dallas South Stars in the final game, the eighth-seed Blackhawks were down 3-0 to the President Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks. The Blackhawks rallied to tie the series before losing in Game 7.
 
“We really had nothing to lose,” Western Conference leading scorer Patrick Kane said. “That’s the thing about an eighth seed. They’re the last team to get in, it’s like they’re expected to be out in the first round. Those are the teams that are most dangerous because they have nothing to lose. You see that last year with [eventual Stanley Cup champ] L.A. and the year we went to the Finals with Philly.
 
“Minnesota is a dangerous team. They have the talent and lineup to do some special things.”
 
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville talked about the Brodin-Suter paid and had some nice things to say about 19-year-old Brodin.
 
“Nice player,” Coach Q said. “Got to commend him on establishing himself right off the bat, playing meaningful minutes against top players. He’s got a real good feel for the game. How they’re going to manage their minutes, we’ll see. We’ll play it out accordingly. We have to be aware of these guys offensively on the back end. Hopefully we can make them play more in their end than in our end. Both are effective at both ends of the rink. Both sets of defense’s, both teams have the ability to go from the back end. It could be a differential as we go along.”
 
On the Wild, Quenneville said, “They’ve got some balance in their lineup. They’re capable of having some pace on all their lines, they can score, they can check, they’re responsible, they play a very organized game. I think we have to be respectful of what they’re capable of.”
 
Yeo on what it will take to beat the Blackhawks: “It’s pretty simple. We’ve got to be great at every aspect of our game, every player of our team. The depth of their lineup, the strength of their game in all situations, there’s no room for error on our part. That’s obviously a tough challenge, but at the same time we also like to think that we’ve been sort of faced with those situations and when we’ve gone up against teams like that, it’s helped to sharpen our focus and performed well in those situations.”
 
A lot more coverage in Wednesday’s Star Tribune. I talked to Pierre McGuire this morning about his insane travel schedule the next few weeks. Doc Emrick and Pierre are doing the game on NBC Sports Network tonight, but it should be blacked out in the Twin Cities.
 
The game can be seen locally on Fox Sports North.
 
Congratulations to Brian Rolston on a stellar career. The three-time Wild 30-goal scorer retired after 17 seasons today.
 
That’s it for me. Talk to you tonight.

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