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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Star Tribune exclusive: 84 seconds with Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: October 11, 2013 - 1:55 PM

I nailed a Star Tribune exclusive today. I think, maybe for the first (actually probably second or third) time since Rick Wilson became a Wild assistant coach in 2010, Mike Yeo's loyal comrade will be quoted in Saturday's Star Tribune.

Some reporters get exclusives with President Obama ... or Angelina Jolie.

I get Rick Wilson!

Wilson may be one of the nicest people in the world, but he's not a fan of talking to the media.

Smart guy, and probably another reason Dave Tippett and Ken Hitchcock always say the guy called "Wilz" by everybody is one of the brightest men in hockey. Wilson stood on the Dallas bench with Tipp and Hitch for years.

Good afternoon from Chateau Rousseau, where I've just returned from the Wild's optional practice and am making a feast for lunch that includes protein soup and microwave vegetables.

Good turnout for the optional as only the minute-munchers didn't make it out to skate at the house that Jordan Schroeder built, St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, which is a suburb of MSP, for all you non-Minnesotans.

Ryan Suter, who has topped 30 minutes in three of four games, Jonas Brodin, whose .500 shooting percentage (2 for 4) is tied for tops in the NHL, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Josh Harding, Matt Cooke and Jason Pominville weren't out there.

One vet that was out there interestingly was Dany Heatley. Most vets take days like this off, but coach Mike Yeo, who stayed back at the arena too, kinda sorta indicated the other day that it was a good sign that Heatley was staying on extra working on his skating. Heatley also said before the season that he's got to keep up with his skating this season.

Goalie Niklas Backstrom, three days after straining his knee, worked a long time before practice with goalie coach extraordinaire Bob Mason and injured left wing Mike Rupp, who is starting to look stronger on his skates as he battles his way back from offseason knee surgery.

Backstrom grimaced at times and admitted afterward that his knee doesn't quite feel "normal" yet, but he did last the entire practice after the pre-skate workout. Backstrom says it's too early to say if he'll be on the upcoming four-game road trip or at least be able to play.

Josh Harding will obviously start Saturday night against the Dallas South Stars and their new ugly unis. If Backstrom can't play on the trip, Darcy Kuemper may get a start Tuesday in Toronto. Even though the organEYEzation says Backstrom may be ready, I'll believe it when I see it and I don't know why you'd risk aggravating the knee injury so soon,

If Kuemper may start, it wouldn't shock me if Johan Gustafsson is called up to back up Harding vs. the Stars and Kuemper is sent to Iowa to start the Baby Wild's home opener behind Erik Haula, Jason Zucker and ... former Gopher Taylor Matson, who is Haula's linemate. Matson signed an AHL deal with the Iowans.

What else?

Oh, as I mentioned above, I landed an 84-second interview with Wilson today. He gave me three questions and I nervously got them all in as we walked to the team bus.

And I actually learned a lot about defense in those 84 seconds, which is why I wish he'd talk to me more. He makes defensive hockey sound so simple to understand, so in tomorrow's Strib, he breaks it down quite simply, along with Clayton Stoner, as to why the Wild's given up so little chances thus far this season.

Also, I asked Wilson, who changes the D corps during games, about Suter, who led the NHL in ice time last season and is again leading at 29:26 a game this season -- two minutes exactly ahead of slacker Dennis Wideman.

Wilson says the Wild has no problem playing Suter that much and he doesn't have a problem with it either, but the Wild is trying to shave back on Suter's PK this season. So besides the fact that Suter was on back-to-back power plays in the first period of Thursday's win over Winny, shaving his PK time back is another reason Wilson opted to go with Jared Spurgeon over Suter on the 3-on-5.

As Yeo said after the game, the Wild needs to figure out how to better defend a 3-on-5 because that's two games in a row the Wild got burnt. Or is it burned, English majors?

That's it for me. I have Green Giant and some coffee waiting. Talk to you Saturday.

But first, 2 Wild Mitzvah's (good deed for the Hebrew deficient):

MINNESOTA WILD BETTER HALVES TO HOST PAJAMA DRIVE
AT GAME THIS SATURDAY, OCT. 12
 
    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League (NHL) today announced that the Wild’s “Better Halves” group will be hosting a Pajama Drive at the game this Saturday, Oct. 12. All donated pajamas will be distributed by Wild players and their Better Halves to local pediatric cancer patients.
 
   The Pajama Drive is part of the Wild’s Hockey Fights Cancer month. Fans are asked to donate new, unused pajamas, from ages infant up to 18 years. Wild Better Halves will be accepting donations at Gates 1-4 of Xcel Energy Center from the beginning of the game through the start of the first period. Gametime is 7 p.m., and gates open at 6 p.m.

--AND--


With the help of the Minnesota Wild, Let's Play Hockey and Minnesota Hockey, gear for the Used Hockey Equipment Drive has been collected and sorted and is ready to be distributed to players readying for the upcoming season.
The fifth annual Used Hockey Equipment Drive will conclude with the equipment distribution from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Oct. 13 at Xcel Energy Center.
The distribution of equipment provides those just starting hockey, thinking about getting into the game or families without expendable income the opportunity to obtain the gear they need to play the greatest game on ice.
 

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