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-Kings opener closing in; Matt Dumba's NHL debut may wait

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: October 2, 2013 - 12:48 PM

Finally, the Wild's opener is on the horizon. Minnesota opens the 2013-14 season on Thursday night with a 7 p.m. date with the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, a team that features Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick.

If you missed today's coverage, here is a feature on Zach Parise, who has high expectations from himself and the Wild this season and a notebook on Dustin Brown expecting boos Thursday, Jason Pominville still hopeful for a contract extension, coach Mike Yeo looking for more "pack of wolves" mentality this season and other extras.

If you missed all my NHL predictions and a story on realignment and Mikko Koivu, that was in Tuesday's editions.

Please grab Thursday's paper as well. I wrote a huge piece on Ryan Suter. Some real good stuff in there (get to the end because he divulges that secret injury he played through last year).

Please join by Opening Day chat at 2 p.m. Thursday at www.startribune.com/wild as well. I will also be on KFAN at some point in the morning and maybe afternoon, I'll be doing a web video hit with Mike Rand and I'll be on the Fox Sports North preview show. Yes, even though the game is on NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports North is doing an hourlong pregame show starting at 6 p.m. and a postgame show.

Three days after saying there's a "good chance" of 19-year-old defenseman Matt Dumba making his NHL debut, Yeo said there's no guarantee Dumba plays against the Kings. I think the coaches are a little nervous about Dumba's nerves heading into a home opener.

Dumba had a very tough practice today. It wouldn't surprise me at all now if Clayton Stoner plays against the Kings. If he does, he would play the left side and Keith Ballard would likely play the right. For Ballard, it'll be his Wild debut.

If Dumba doesn't play, he will likely make his NHL debut Saturday against Anaheim.

Matt Cooke and Nino Niederreiter will also make their Wild debuts against the Kings, and Justin Fontaine will make his NHL debut.

The potential lineup:

Forwards

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville

Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Dany Heatley

Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Mikael Granlund

Fontaine-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

Injured: Mike Rupp (knee)

Defensemen

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon

Ballard-Stoner

Extras: Dumba and Nate Prosser (again, if Dumba does play, he will be paired with Ballard and Ballard would play the left, Dumba the right)

Goalies

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

Players and coaches are ready to get this season going. It's been a long camp.

"I spent the evening watching hockey last night," Yeo said. "I watched at least parts of all three games. …My family can get used to that when I’m home. They'll know where to find me."

Couple interesting items:

-- Charlie Coyle was awesome again in shootouts in practice. He's got a plethora of moves. Koivu, Parise, Pominville will almost certainly be 1-2-3 every game. The question is who goes 4-5-6 and so on. Yeo joked that Coyle is on the list.

My guess is 4-5-6 will go Coyle, Niederreiter, Granlund. Brodziak scored a sweet goal today. Mitchell seems to often score in shootout practice. One defenseman that always seems to score in these things is Spurgeon.

-- The second power-play unit it talented but VERY young. Up front, 21-year-olds Granlund, Coyle and Niederreiter. On the point, it'll either be Dumba, 19, or Brodin, 20 with the elder statesman, Spurgeon, 23, the veteran of three seasons. Yeo said experience is nice, but they have a lot of skills that fit nicely together.

So as of now, the No. 1 unit will be loaded up with vets -- Parise, Koivu, Heatley, Pominville and Suter.

My first Sunday column of the season is this weekend, by the way. It'll stem off the George Parros injury last night. I didn't talk to a player in the Wild room today who feels fighting should be banned, but the annual argument against it has started again.

The column will mostly be a lot of Zenon Konopka's thoughts on the subject. I'm always fascinated by how the fighters rationalize it.

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