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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Matt Cooke Extra; Wild hosts Columbus tonight in preseason opener

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild training camp Updated: September 17, 2013 - 12:31 PM

The Wild’s first “morning skate” of the season is over as the Wild opens the preseason tonight with an exhibition game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It is not on TV or streamed online. It can be heard on KFAN and also on the always visual @russostrib Twitter account, www.twitter.com/russostrib.

Speaking of visual, starting later this week, I plan to do daily 60-second iPhone video updates on the Wild throughout the season. It’ll be basically a daily one-minute update from me on the Wild and can be seen on startribune.com/wild. They’ll be little quick hits of the unshaven, unkempt Russo, probably from the back of cabs, airports, hotel rooms, bar stools, press box seats, snowmobiles, whatever.

Currently, coach Mike Yeo and his staff are below me on the ice conducting a practice with the non-playing Wild guys. That includes Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, etc.

Tonight’s lineup again:


Matt Cooke-Charlie Coyle-Nino Niederreiter

Jason Zucker-Mikael Granlund-Justin Fontaine

Stephane Veilleux-Kyle Brodziak-Torrey Mitchell

Jake Dowell-David Steckel-Carson McMillan


Keith Ballard-Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella-Nate Prosser

Brian Connelly-Jonathon Blum


Niklas Backstrom

Darcy Kuemper

Yeo said the Wild looked “crisp” and he expects to see an imperfect game, but one in which he wants to start to see the discipline within the Wild’s game and system.

I wrote a big feature on Matt Cooke in today’s newspaper. That link can be seen here and here is a little more about Cooke here (like how his Toronto Maple Leafs career ended before it actually started), including a quote from his brother-in-law, Brandon, who coincidentally was transferred to St. Paul for his job just prior to Cooke signing here. Now Cooke’s family and his brother-in-law’s family (Cooke is married to Brandon’s sister, Michelle) live on the same block.

I actually held some large chunks of my sitdown with Cooke for future articles. He’s a quote machine and fascinating guy, especially away from the rink. So you’ll be seeing a lot of stuff about Cooke during his time here. He feels he's a more effective player since "he's cleaned up his act," and you can see that just on the PK. His stickwork (stick on puck) created lots of problems for the Wild PP on Monday. Remember, often when you're always going for the big hit, your stick is up. Now that he's not, he's paying more attention to details and the nuances of the game, and says he's never had more fun playing it.

Some stuff that did see the cutting room floor:

--That Ray Shero anecdote about flying to Toronto for the Cooke hearing after the Ryan McDonagh hit, Shero told me a funny story. He gets to Canadian customs and an agent goes, “What do you do?” Shero goes, “I work for a hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.” The agent snaps, “Do you employ that $^&$#* Matt Cooke?” Shero said yeah and was then given the lecture of his lifetime. Shero tracked down Cooke after and kiddingly told him he basically was almost detained because of him.

--Cooke on his son, Jackson, being a stud baseball player (made the Pennsylvania All-Star team as a catcher) instead of a hockey player: “It’s not his thing. I want my kids to do what they want to do. When I’m retired, spending springtime down in Florida rather than up north is going to be nice.”

--Cooke says Mike Keenan “made him this way” (referring to his agitating style) and Marc Crawford just continued it in Vancouver. By the way, Cooke is just a huge fan of Crawford and former Canucks GM Brian Burke. On Crawford: “He was such a great coach for me. He totally believed in me. I mean, look at Game 1 [in 2003] against Minnesota. I scored with [2.3] seconds left to put it into overtime and Trent Klatt scored the winner. I mean, what was I doing on the ice with [2.3] seconds left? But he gave me those chances.”

Cooke on being a marked man by the refs: “I mean, sometimes. Sometimes it’s more like I get mugged and nothing gets called. Play on. Part of that is me earning their trust back, too, and in the past maybe I didn’t handle the referees the best. Yelling. I’ve stopped doing that, too. My wife joked though, maybe I should change my number (24) so I stop getting two minutes for being Matt Cooke (laughing).

I talked to Dustin Brown a lot about Cooke a few weeks ago and held some of that for opening night when the Kings captain comes to town. It was Brown who first knocked out Cooke’s tooth (it’s on YouTube). Cooke has a fake tooth but doesn’t wear it. He says it’s uncomfortable and the missing tooth is almost like a battle scar.

I love this anecdote. A few weeks ago, Cooke drove his kids to their new Minnesota school on the first day. “My wife looks at me and goes, ‘Really? The first day of school, you couldn’t put your teeth in? What would you think if you saw some dad with no tooth and a beard dropping kids off?’ I was like, ‘sorry, that’s not me.’”

Onward, here’s a subject to change plan for the Star Tribune in the next few days. In Wednesday’s newspaper, I’ll have a feature on Nino Niederreiter to give you an introduction. In Thursday’s paper, Rachel Blount will be profiling Matt Dumba. In Friday’s paper, from Winnipeg, I, as of now, plan to write about Justin Fontaine. Right now, the former UMD national champ is slated to play that game. In Saturday’s paper, Rachel is writing about former Gopher Keith Ballard.

There will be notebooks and gamers and other stuff, too.

Some more Yeo-bits from this morning:

He talked about Charlie Coyle and how he’s looking for him to take a bigger step offensively this year and provide secondary scoring beyond the top line.

On Niederreiter, Yeo wants to see him grasp the system tonight. Yeo said Niederreiter isn’t being pigeon-holed as a top-6 spot only right now. That’s because, in my opinion, if Jason Zucker and Coyle grab those second-line spots with Dany Heatley, Niederreiter’s only choice initially beyond Iowa is grabbing that third-line right wing spot.

So Yeo wants to see that he’s versatile with and without the puck the way Coyle was last season. Niederreiter can’t play that checking-line spot with Cooke and Kyle Brodziak if he can’t be relied on. So that’s partly what El Nino must show in camp.

I should have a good story on Nino Wednesday. He was a decent interview, I plan to talk to his junior linemate, Columbus’ Ryan Johansen before tonight’s game, I’ve talked to his junior coach and GM, Mike Johnston, I’ve talked to GM Chuck Fletcher about him, analyst Craig Button, etc. I probably have too much stuff actually.

Similarly, Yeo said Fontaine needs to show he’s beyond just a point-getter, and again if you look at the depth chart, for Fontaine to make the team, it may need to be in a fourth-line role. I talked to Fontaine today and he understands that. If Fontaine doesn’t make the team, he just needs to prove he should be an initial callup if injury occurs.

Rachel got some nice stuff on Dumba for her story. Yeo said Dumba’s been told that he can’t make the team just by playing safe. He’s got to “get up to the line and not cross it.” Dumba provides a dimension the Wild doesn’t have, and the Wild wants to see it for him to be here. I still think he makes the team.

More after the game and on Twitter.


Tennessee 7:25 PM
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
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
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question