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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Matt Dumba to make his NHL debut tonight against the Anaheim Ducks

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: October 5, 2013 - 12:37 PM

The Wild expects a “grumpy, desperate” Anaheim Ducks team at the X tonight. The Ducks lost 6-1 in its opener Wednesday in Denver and as Wild coach Mike Yeo predicted, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau made clear this morning that “It’s a big night for us. We have to redeem ourselves.”

“The message was pretty simple this morning [to the Wild]. We’ve got two teams searching for their first win,” Yeo said. “There should be a high level of determination coming into this game tonight.”

Despite a strong game by Clayton Stoner in the opener, rookie Matt Dumba will make his NHL debut tonight. The 2012 first-round pick will be paired with Keith Ballard, who will move to the left side after playing the right on Thursday.

I believe Dumba is the youngest defenseman to debut in Wild history. Brent Burns debuted at age 18, but I think he played forward his rookie year (I didn't cover the team). Dumba and Jonas Brodin is/was 19, and Dumba’s got a July 25 birthday, Brodin a July 12 birthdate.

Knowing me and the way I do math, I’ll probably be back later to correct this! Like

Dumba’s folks, Treena and Charlie, will be in the house tonight to watch their oldest son debut. Dumba led the center-ice team stretch after the morning skate in a neat scene.

Teammates joked with him that they’ll be happy in Red Deer tonight.

“They’ve all been great,” Dumba said, adding teammates told him to “just go out and play my game and just have fun. I’ve been playing this game since I was little and just relax and be myself out there.”

Dumba said, “I’m just thankful that my opportunity has come along. Now I’m just going to go out there and work my hardest and do whatever it takes to stay around.”

He said he’d try not to put on “extra pressures and nerves. Just another game. Looking back afterward, hopefully it a good one.”

Yeo said, “I’m excited for him. This guy’s a big part of our future. He’s had a really strong camp, so I’m excited to get him there and see how he goes out and performs at this time of year. We’ve seen it. We saw it Game 1 for us, the pace of play, the intensity picks up right now, so you want to see how he handles that.”

Asked if assistant coach Rick Wilson, who changes the D, will manage his ice time, Yeo said, “It’s important to get him out there early and get him into the feel of the game. And then every game you manage the game. But it’s important that we show him the faith and confidence in him to get him involved in the game.”

Yeo wouldn’t say if Dumba would play the power play, but Yeo indicated yesterday that it would tough taking Brodin off after playing so well Thursday and scoring a power-play goal.

Jonas Hiller vs. Niklas Backstrom tonight.

Dustin Penner gets in for Anaheim as Teemu Selanne sits in anticipation for another return to Winnipeg tomorrow.

The Ducks’ Emerson Etem (lower body), Luca Sbisa (ankle) and Sheldon Souray (wrist) are out. For some reason, I forgot to add them to my injury report in today’s paper.

What else? Saku Koivu got to meet his niece last night. I’ve got some cool quotes from Mikko that I’ll toss into tomorrow’s paper.

Yeo also was impressed Charlie Coyle took a leap onto the knife in today’s paper regarding his mistake on the tying goal against L.A. in the opener.

“That’s the kind of accountability that we like around here,” Yeo said. “He had a solid game. He had a really solid game. He was close to a great game. What he did with the puck all night and what he did without puck the puck most of the night, he had a really strong game.”

But Coyle told Yeo yesterday that he couldn’t sleep after the game because of not defending Jeff Carter on the tying goal. Yeo said, “I said, ‘you’ve got to learn from it and you’ve got to move on from it and focus on the things you did well and just correct that stuff.’”

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