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 loses 3-1 to Columbus in preseason opener; Zucker tweaks groin

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage, Wild training camp Updated: September 17, 2013 - 10:38 PM

Not the prettiest of games tonight, but that was to be expected in the Wild’s exhibition opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets – and far from Columbus’ A squad.

But coach Mike Yeo said it was clear the Jackets had played a few exhibition games and the Wild was still in “scrimmage mode.” He said Columbus was at a different speed and battle level than the Wild and it took Minnesota “about 58 minutes to really get up to game mode.”

The big news of the night is left wing Jason Zucker tweaked his groin on what Yeo thought was the youngster’s first shift. He tried to battle through it, but he left the game at the 7:50 mark of the second.

Yeo hopes it isn’t serious and there’s lots of time and camp left, so they didn’t want him to hurt it more.

If it is something that lingers, that really opens the door for Nino Niederreiter, 21, who scored a goal tonight, had three shots and was a constant presence. What I like is he goes to the net and parks himself there. So many go there and then continue by.

Yeo said he’d argue that Niederreiter, who I feature in Wednesday’s Star Tribune, was “probably our best forward tonight. I liked that he was making plays and I like that he was going to the net, but some guys go to the net and then vacate quickly and he has a presence in front of the net.”

In the third, he was always there and just couldn’t smack the puck home.

But Yeo said, “We have to take our time with Nino for sure because there are some other parts of his game we have to coach him through.” Yeo said, “what he did with the puck, he was strong,” so Yeo is clearly indicating the areas are away from the puck and the structure inside the Wild’s system.

Yeo said Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund had moments of good and bad, but Coyle made plays and Yeo loved Granlund’s elevation of his game in the third. He pointed to his speed, assertiveness and “compete.”

Granlund definitely looked more comfortable than I’ve seen him and Coyle said, “he’s definitely gained a step.” With Zucker’s injury, Granlund and Coyle each skated wing and center and sometimes with Niederreiter.

The defensemen, there was good and bad. Yeo said you could just tell early there was slow decision making, slow decisions to move the puck, which is natural in a first game.

Matt Dumba had four shots but said he was jittery early. He and Keith Ballard were a pair, and there was good and bad, like the Mark Letestu breakaway goal. That was theme of the night for many – good and bad.

Marco Scandella, some good, some bad. Brian Connelly had a tough go at times.

Justin Fontaine and Jon Blum were minus-2s. Fontaine was robbed twice. Niklas Backstrom gave up three goals on 10 shots in half the game. As planned, Darcy Kuemper came in midway and stopped seven of seven shots.

“First exhibition game, and it was blatant that it was,” Yeo said. “We gave up more odd-man rushes tonight than I hope we give up in the first month of the season.”

Again, I wouldn’t make too much of this. I saw a lot of good from Coyle, Granlund, Niederreiter and Dumba, and those are the guys to really focus on in these six exhibition games. The Wild's heavy hitters weren't playing either.

I will be on XM Home Ice radio Wednesday morning at 9:45 a.m. CT. As part of the new CBA, there are mandatory days off in training camp. The first is Wednesday, so barring news, no blog as I get that daily 60-second video up and running.

The Wild plays in Winnipeg on Thursday. It’ll skate here in the morning and then fly there, so unless we get the lineup Wednesday, I’ll let you know after Thursday’s skate. I will be at the game in Winnipeg, so with no TV, follow along on Twitter.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
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