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 playoff updates: Backstrom, Pominville remain day-to-day; Kuemper recalled

Posted by: Michael Russo under Stanley Cup, Wild practice Updated: May 1, 2013 - 3:15 PM


Fresh off its 2-1 overtime loss last night in Chicago, the Wild assembled at Xcel Energy Center today after flying back home following the game. With two off-days before Game 2 Friday and the team having been in a playoff grind lately, the short flight between here and Chicago gave the opportunity for the team to come home, sleep in their own beds, use their own facilities, etc.
The Wild didn’t practice today, but most the players came down for meetings or treatment. Scratches Nate Prosser, Brett Clark and Justin Falk were on the ice today with goalie Darcy Kuemper, who was recalled from AHL Houston.

Niklas Backstrom, who was injured in warmups last night, was down at the rink getting looked at today. Coach Mike Yeo said he is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. But the way Backstrom skated off yesterday, I think the assumption now is Harding will start Game 2 with Kuemper backing him up.
Jason Pominville continues to be day-to-day and, like I said, was not on the ice with last night’s scratches. Obviously a lot of guys looked to be banged up last night. Matt Cullen seemed to aggravate his injury. Clayton Stoner only played a few shifts in the first and 8 minutes in the game after getting hit hard by Andrew Shaw. Several guys, like Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Ryan Suter, blocked some shots from close-range, so I’m sure they’re smarting.
But as far as Yeo knows now, the guys that played in Game 1 should be ready for Game 2. We will see at Thursday’s practice before the team returns to Chicago.
Harding says he is feeling good today and if need be, he can start Friday. He didn’t see Backstrom get injured in warmups.
Mikko came and said, ‘Hards, get in there,’” Harding said. “I went in and finished warmup, and I took the end shots, and I thought that somebody would tell me if I wasn’t playing so I just prepared like I was playing.”
He left the ice with three or four minutes left like the starter would. He say in his stall and there was no sign of Backstrom.
“I just kind of took it as I’m playing until somebody comes and tells me I’m not,” Harding said.
Harding has gotten an outpouring of support due to his multiple sclerosis. Michael J. Fox tweeted about him last night. Same with former teammate Eric Nystrom. Jonathan Toews told the Chicago press today that his performance last night was “nothing short of amazing.”
As you know, Harding has made it clear he wants to be treated normally, that he’s just one player on the roster, and doesn’t want to make this about MS.
“I have to take care of my business, and there’s a lot of time in the summer to get caught up on all that stuff,” he said.
Yesterday late in warmups, Zach Parise skated up to Harding along the red line and gave him a few words of support and a tap with his stick.
Parise said he basically told him it was his time.
“He’s a leader on this team,” Harding said. “He helps guys out when they need it, and he just gave me a little bit of a boost, and I really appreciated it. I thanked him after the game.”
Lot of questions about the Wild’s backup situation if an injury arose to Harding or he had to be pulled. Basically, it can only be a player on your roster, so since the Wild didn’t have Kuemper there, it would have had to be a position player.
On last night’s game, Yeo said, “One thing I thought that we did well is we played a good structured game. But for me one key is take that structure and to add a physical element to it. We definitely need to bring a nastiness to our game. There were situations where we could have done that. The flip side is you have to make sure against a team like that, you start running around and take yourself out of position, they’ll gladly take a hit to make a play to score a goal. But that’s one area we can improve as a team is bringing that physical element within the structure of our game.
“We have to make sure that we’re making their D pay a price. We have to make sure we’re getting pucks behind them and I thought our forecheck wasn’t enough a factor in the game for us. A lot of that for me was our entries coming through neutral zone. We turned a few pucks over. Especially early in the game, we have to do a better job of setting the tone.”
On a power play that doesn’t include Charlie Coyle on the first unit, Yeo said Kyle Brodziak has “been there a lot more and we've had a lot of success when he has been there. So that's what it comes down to. He's also another faceoff guy.” (in other words if Mikko Koivu’s booted from the circle).
On the power play that went 0 for 4, Yeo said, “We just sat down and watched it again and broke it down and we're planning on sitting down with the guys now as well. For me, it's sort of the mentality we brought. I thought that we were a little too slow and a little too passive against a team that plays tight, they play to the inside, so if you're not aggressive and ready to attack in certain situations than it's pretty easy for them to keep you to the outside.”
Yeo definitely got defensive about questions about the lack of offensive chances by Parise, Koivu and Coyle against Toews’ line:
“The challenge is, now what if we score the overtime winner? What's the story today? Are they saying what a great job that our top line did and how their top line needs to find more, because 5-on-5 they didn't have much either. And that's one important thing to remember. The difference in the game was we scored one 5-on-5 goal, and they scored one 5-on-5 goal, and they got one power play [goal] and we didn't.”
Still, the Blackhawks have a lot more weapons. I’ll just plainly say it, no chance the Wild wins the series if the top line doesn’t find a way to get more scoring chances.
“Right,” Yeo said. “But at the same time, we also need them to play defensively the same way they did. And this is kind of what we talked about last night. We have to continue to have the same defensive focus and game plan but if we go out there and we just try to outscore those guys shift after shift than they can hurt you to.
So it's building within our game and that has to be the base of it, but now we've got to piece by piece get a little bit better. And there are areas that we can get better -- in particular in the offensive zone. We weren't there enough and we didn't stay there long enough when we were there. This time of year, getting pucks through to the net, creating those scrums, that's how a good majority of those goals are scored.”

Game 2 is crucial.
“Well there's no question there's a big difference between being 1-1 and down 2-0,” Yeo said. “But having said that, we have to make sure we approach it with the right mindset. We have to go in with desperation for sure, but our goal is to get the split and that's what we're focused on.

I'll update this with some more Parise stuff after I transcribe.

I will be on KFAN at 5:20 with Dan Barriero and on KFAN Thursday morning from 9:15-11 a.m. with Paul Allen.

CHICAGO STUFF TODAY, courtesy of my friend, Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun

on Suter playing 41 minutes
“He’s a tremendous defenceman. There aren’t many guys around who can do that. We want to force him to make as many tough plays as possible, try and wear him down, even though that’s very tough. We have enough forwards to keep him busy. If we keep playing our game eventually we’ll eventually break through him.”

on Minnesota shutting things down, protecting Harding.
“We know they’re doing a great job trying to block as many shots as possible, but if our game is working we’re going to fine.”

on Wild style
“That’s how they’ve played us all season. We kind of expected that in Game 1 and it’s not going to change. It’s up to us to keep being as tough as we can on their goaltender, get more second efforts and more traffic. We have to keep wearing them down as much as we can.
“We like to think of ourselves as an offensive team that can score in a lot of different ways.

on Harding
“It’s nothing short of amazing. I have a lot of respect for a guy like that... I read his quotes about not wanting any sympathy, he’s going to keep working, keep playing. You have to respect an opponent like that, especially when he’s going through something like that. Seeing the way he played, the stops he made was pretty cool. We know he’s stepping into that spot light an assuming that responsibility, which isn’t an easy thing to do... but what we want to do as a team is be tougher on their goaltender. We need to do that.”

“That’s a lot to do with their coaching staff over there and the way they play the game, well disciplined, good in all areas. There’s not going to be too many easy games or easy opportunities to score. But we feel comfortable playing that style of game. We’ve propven we can be successful playing that way.”

Playing through adversity like Harding is:
“It seems commonplace in today’s game, especially hockey, to play through injuries and different situations. You have to tip your hat to what Josh is going through on their side. It’s pretty amazing that he’s able to play at the level he does, it’s an inspiration for a lot of people. My personal story would probably be Duncan Keith in the playoffs in 2010. I don’t even know if he missed a shift, maybe one or two, after he lost nine teeth. That’s one thing that was pretty impressive to me.”
“Sometimes when you have bumps and bruises or minor injuries you look to the guy next to you that is dealing with something much worse and it makes it a little easier.”

No mullet for him, just Saad and Kane
“In 2010 Kaner and I got the mullets originally but I backed out the day before the first game. I didn’t want to deal with my mom and dad giving me heck after every game, telling me I look like an idiot. We’ll leave that up to those two.”

on Suter
“It was unbelievable. During the game we noticed he was out there quite a bit. Then we saw the sheet after the game and he had 41 minutes. It was unbelievable. I remember Dunc and I played 30 minutes at the end of overtime and it felt like a lot. 41 is pretty crazy.”

On the Oduya pass off the glass to set up the OT winner: “I think that was one of the best indirect passes you’ll ever see. I think Johhny saw the play unfolding and meant to do that. It turned out to be a special pass.”

Fighting through Minnesota’s style: “I expected a tight series, low scoring games. Minnesota has always defending the front of their net extremely well. The clean looks through the middle of the ice in their end are going to be hard to find.
“If we want to play a pretty game into that type of traffic it’s going to lead to them having some success. We have to play an uglier game.”


Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 Top 5th Inning
Washington 3
Boston 6:05 PM
Toronto 6:05 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Dallas 9:30 PM
Calgary 6:00 PM
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Navy 6:00 PM
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
American Univ 6:00 PM
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Memphis 8:00 PM
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
Arizona 54 2nd Half 3:48
SC State 41 2nd Half 11:42
Bethune-Cookman 34
Delaware State 45 2nd Half 6:23
Coppin State 66
Portland 31 2nd Half 12:35
Santa Clara 46
Norfolk State 27 2nd Half 10:40
Hampton 42
NC A&T 45 2nd Half 14:13
NC Central 21
Savannah State 40 2nd Half
Florida A&M 23
Virginia Tech 19 2nd Half
Pittsburgh 17
Central Arkansas 20 2nd Half
Nicholls 33
Houston Baptist 29 2nd Half
TX A&M-CC 42
Gardner-Webb 33 2nd Half
Radford 19
Georgia 32 2nd Half
Missouri 27
Old Dominion 26 2nd Half
Marshall 28
Ark-Little Rock 31 2nd Half
Louisiana 23
South Alabama 31 2nd Half
Arkansas State 34
Georgia State 21 1st Half 3:15
ULM 26
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alabama State 11 1st Half 12:00
Grambling 11
Alcorn State 16 1st Half 9:01
Texas Southern 21
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 11 1st Half 10:31
Mercer 15
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
San Francisco 8:00 PM
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Purdue 8:25 PM
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
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