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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Koivu line with Parise, Pominville, Granlund line, Cooke shine in Sunday scrimmage

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild training camp Updated: September 15, 2013 - 4:06 PM

Good afternoon from high above an empty, quiet, very dark X. Lights shut off in the press box too (spooky). If you didn't see the previous blog, I tossed up all the story links for the week in case you missed some stories.

The Wild held a Green-White game in front of 3,000 fans and the white team prevailed 3-2 on Mikko Koivu’s third-period winning goal from Matt Dumba and Zach Parise. The Wild will be looking for the defensemen to be a bigger part of the play this season, both in the neutral zone and offensive zone.

Dumba, 19, who will be given a huge look this month, displayed that here. Stepping up into the left circle, Dumba, a 2012 first-round pick, nearly set up Parise at the far post. They couldn’t connect, so Dumba skated to the back of the net, found the loose puck and fed Koivu at the goalmouth.

The Wild captain gave white a 3-1 lead with a water-bottle popper by Darcy Kuemper, who had no shot.

Matt Cooke, who had a strong scrimmage, took Jonathon Blum’s pass, circled to the right circle and sniped a bullet by Johan Gustafsson to cut the green deficit to 3-2, but the green, coached by Andrew Brunette, couldn’t tie white, which was coached by Iowa Wild coach Kurt Kleinendorst.

Cooke looked great again on a line with Kyle Brodziak and Torrey Mitchell. In the second period, Nate Prosser, at his own blue line, flipped a puck high into the other zone past Dumba. Cooke caught up to the puck, spun and sent a perfect feed to a driving Mitchell, who scored by Niklas Backstrom.

I’m planning a big profile on Cooke that should run in Tuesday’s paper. On his goal, he jokingly said he closed his eyes and shot. He has scored double digit goals in 10 of 12 full seasons – really 10 of 11 because last year was a 48-game season. Two years ago, he scored a career-high 19 goals.

He said teammates were shocked at the skill, speed and shot of the longtime agitator. He told them, “Did you guys think we were getting some bum or what?” Cooke said, laughing.

On his line, Cooke said, “We’re going to be a line that goes out and plays a top line and shutdown role, but the best way to play defense against a good line is to play in the offensive zone. We all understand that if we are responsible in our own end and take care of the puck in the neutral zone, we’re going to get chances.”

The white jumped out to a 2-0 lead with two goals past Josh Harding. First, Mikael Granlund skated behind the net, and when Josh Harding and Tyler Graovac thought he’d continue his route, Granlund found a driving Jason Zucker for the pretty score.

Moments later, Parise stole a puck behind the net and connected with Jason Pominville in front for another nice goal by the former Buffalo Sabres captain.

I’m mostly writing about the chemistry between Parise, Koivu and Pominville in Monday’s paper, particularly what Pominville adds to the line. Just a totally underrated player.

The Wild will hold a special teams scrimmage Monday. Coach Mike Yeo was still working out the format, but it may be a series of five-minute majors to work on the power play and penalty kills.

The hope is the new shallower nets will be strung together and used Monday. You’ll get to see it for the first time in Monday’s exhibition game against the Columbus SplitSquaders.

The bottom depth of the frame is moved from 44” to 40” and the side radius is reduced from 20” to 18”; resulting in 4” reduction per side. The total width of the bottom of the frame is changed from 96” to 88”. There is no change to the opening of the goal frame, but this provides more room to create behind the net and could lead to more wraparounds as well.

Yeo said he’s got the lineups mostly figured out for the upcoming exhibition games and Tuesday’s against the Blue Jackets will be a mix of kids vying for jobs and vets. He did say some kids like Granlund, Dumba and Charlie Coyle could end up playing all six exhibition games. More on that in the Yeo-bits below.

One note: Ryan Suter will wear a visor this season. He was one of a handful of Wild players who hasn’t in his NHL career. Starting this year, every NHL player who enters the league must wear a visor. The visorless ones that were here before are grandfathered in.

But Suter was hit on the helmet by a slap shot last season. He said that woke him up.

“An inch over, I could have lost my eye,” Suter said. “Just not worth it anymore. Everyone else can wear it, why can’t I?”


On today’s scrimmage: “Lot of good things. We’re certainly not in midseason form right now, but seeing guys incorporate some of the things we’re working on and seeing guys making plays and showing some things out there, I thought it was good.”

On Zucker-Granlund-Justin Fontaine line? You know what, I thought that line in particular really jumped out. I thought that they had a real strong game. They were playing well in the offensive zone, they did a couple things off the rush. I thought all three of those guys had strong days.”

On the Nino Niederreiter-Coyle-Dany Heatley line having trouble defending the Koivu line: “That was by design that Granny was going up against Brodzy and by design Charlie was going up against Mikko. It was a tough test. They had some moments, but chemistry-wise, it didn’t look like they were right with it all the time. They showed some good things. Charlie, especially, he made the mistake on the one goal (Pominville or Koivu, not sure which Yeo is referring), but otherwise I thought he had a strong day.”

On us seeing the good and bad of Niederreiter today (he made some great, great plays and some high-risk players that wound up turnovers): “He’s trying to make an impression right now. That’s normal. He just screams NHL player … when you look at his size, skating ability, his shot. He just has to relax a little bit and just trust his linemates a little more and just play the game a little more. We’ll talk to him about, but even in a game like that, I don’t know if it was by any means his best, but he still showed a lot.”

On the top line buzzing all game: “Puck support, and we keep talking about it, puck possession. Their movement for each other, through the neutral zone into the offensive zone, they had some shifts that were fun to watch, and that was backed up by the defensemen they were playing with. That’s something we’ve been stressing, getting our D more involved, both in the rush and the offensive zone, and it certainly led to some confusion, good chances and some good zone time.”

What D did he like beyond Suter and Jonas Brodin, who were awesome? “Lots for me, but the top two are obvious ones. But I thought [Keith] Ballard had a really good day. I think he’s had a really good camp. I thought Marco [Scandella] had a really good day, a really good camp. And Spurg is Spurg (Jared Spurgeon). He just goes out and does it, and that’s just what we expect from him now. That wasn’t it. Dumba, I think he had a really strong day. He made what I consider a young mistake on the one goal (Mitchell; tried to catch Prosser’s Pavol Demitra-like flip), but that stuff happens, even to veteran players. But aside from that, his puck play was very, very good.”

On Matt Cooke: “There’s a reason why he’s here. He’s more than probably what is advertised or what the perception might be for him. He’s a good player. He’s a guy that defensively, penalty killing, the physical part of the game, those are all part of his identity, but he’s got speed, the ability to make plays, the ability to help other guys get to their game and help provide some secondary offense.”

(Like I said, I’m writing about Cooke for Tuesday. I had lunch with him 10 days ago and it was a terrific interview. I’ve talked to a lot of people about him, so I think it should be a deeper look into what makes Cooke tick beyond some of the incidents he’s become known for).

On Pominville: “You can see just how smart he is. He’s got skill, he makes little plays. You can just see that guys like that, they’re always a step ahead of the play. Before the puck comes to them, they know where their support is and what their options are and on top of that, where the defenders are. He’s just a real, real high-caliber player.”

(Parise and GM Chuck Fletcher were real good on Pominville today, and you can see those quotes in Monday’s Star Tribune).

Can some of the young kids play all six preseason games? “Potentially. Granny and Charlie, the importance of making that decision and seeing how they progress. Dumba, based on the need to make decision on him, we want to see him in a lot of games.”

Does that mean Granlund and Coyle are going up against each other for the No. 2 center spot and nothing else? In short, no, Yeo said. “We’ve got a real open mind. When talking second-line center position right now, if we want to call it that, we just want to take our time making that decision and along the way it could lead to other decisions as well. It’s not that spot or nothing. If they win another position in the lineup, whether wing or center, we’re giving them that opportunity.”

(Yeo talked highly of Carson McMillan today and the camp he is having. Yeo also said afterward he really wants to see a lot more of Erik Haula in the exhibition games).

That’s it…4 p.m., I’m still in the arena and haven’t written for the paper yet.


Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 108 FINAL
Toronto 118
Memphis 91 FINAL
Cleveland 105
Boston 84 FINAL
Miami 100
Detroit 105 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
LA Lakers 101 FINAL
Sacramento 108
Philadelphia 96 FINAL
Orlando 88
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Washington 92
Indiana 100 FINAL
Minnesota 96
New Orleans 101 FINAL
Oklahoma City 99
Colorado 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Dallas 6 FINAL(SO)
Edmonton 5
Buffalo 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 1
Toronto 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 3
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
Samford 64
Coker 52 FINAL
South Carolina 78
Boston College 71
Northern Ariz 66 FINAL
Hampton 75
SD Christian 61 FINAL
San Diego 71
UC Irvine 55 FINAL
Bradley 47
Troy 65 FINAL
Nicholls 64
Seton Hall 47 FINAL
Georgia 65
Appalachian St 59 FINAL
Alabama 60
North Dakota St 52 FINAL
Kent State 53
San Jose St 53 FINAL
Washington St 82
Alcorn State 45 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
Sacramento St 47 FINAL
Seattle 66
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Indiana State 73 FINAL
St Johns 67
Southern U 49 FINAL
Florida 78
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
(19) Oklahoma St 66 FINAL
USC 62
Houston 54 FINAL
Texas Tech 60
Ark-Little Rock 66 FINAL
Tulsa 59
Dayton 71 FINAL
Vanderbilt 67
Northern Ariz 37 FINAL
New Mexico 56
UNC-Asheville 60 FINAL
USC Upstate 67
North Dakota 81 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Western Ill 57 FINAL
Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
(6) North Carolina 85
Ball State 59 FINAL
Western Ky 84
(8) Kentucky 68 FINAL
(13) Duke 89
New Orleans 58 FINAL
Alabama 87
Chicago State 47 FINAL
Milwaukee 69
Bowling Green 61 FINAL
Bradley 47
Ill-Springfield 56 FINAL
SE Missouri St 73
Northern Ill 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
Central Michigan 64 FINAL
Minnesota 67
Western Carolina 45 FINAL
North Florida 62
Wyoming 71 FINAL
Colorado 76
Portland 58 FINAL
Boise State 94
Cal Poly 63 FINAL
Colorado State 65
No Dakota State 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
Albany 71 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 49
Oklahoma 64 FINAL
Arkansas 71
Idaho State 63 FINAL
Seattle 55
(18) Michigan State 89 FINAL
(19) Syracuse 76
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Arizona State 88
TX-Arlington 46 FINAL
North Texas 38
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Oregon 59
St Francis-PA 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 72
CS-Bakersfield 74
(2) Connecticut 86
(10) Louisville 70 FINAL
(24) California 57
Howard 53 FINAL
Virginia 74
Miami-Ohio 42 FINAL
(21) Miss State 68
Illinois-Chicago 55 FINAL
Old Dominion 61
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