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's lineup heading into first meeting with Blackhawks since 2013 playoffs

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: October 26, 2013 - 12:47 PM

Good afternoon from the house that Nick Leddy built, the United Center, where the Wild and Blackhawks meet tonight for the first time since Minnesota's opening-round loss to Chicago in last year's playoffs.

The Blackhawks went on to win a little hardware later that summer much to the chagrin of the what-the-heck-just-happened Boston Bruins.

The Wild has won four in a row at home but is 1-3-1 on the road and has scored seven goals in that stretch. It opens a home-and-home series with its new Central Division rivals. In the past 20 meetings including last year’s playoffs, the Wild has won six against the Hawks and only one in regulation. Including last year’s 0-3 playoffs, the Wild has won two of the past 10 visits to Chicago.

Nineteen Wild players took the ice for today's morning skate. The only one who took the optional off? Matt Cooke.

"That's why I went on. I wanted to make him feel uncomfortable," joked coach Mike Yeo.

Asked what he expected now tonight from Cooke, Yeo kidded, "I don't know, but the pressure's on."

The Wild will go with the same lines that were changed during and ended Thursday's game vs. Carolina (changes in CAPS):

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Justin Fontaine

NINO NIEDERREITER-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-DANY HEATLEY

Stephane Veilleux-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella-Nate Prosser

Clayton Stoner-Matt Dumba

Niklas Backstrom

Johan Gustafsson

That's eight new bodies that didn't play vs. Chicago in the playoffs: Fontaine, Niederreiter, Granlund, Cooke, Prosser, Dumba, Backstrom, Gustafsson. And remember, Stoner got hurt in Game 1, Pominville missed the first three games and Veilleux only played two.

"I haven't seen them a ton this year, but ... they seem like they're moving well, they look like they're checking well as a team, they look like they're attacking well as a group. They look like they're improved," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Brad Mills and Jeremy Morin will make their season debuts for Chicago. Michal Handzus is out with an upper-body injury and Ben Smith is scratched.

Mills has played 31 games previously for the Devils and nearly signed a PTO last year to play for the Wild's Houston Aeros (now defunct). crying

Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Josh Harding, Keith Ballard and Mike Rupp aren't here for the Wild. Coyle, Rupp and Ballard should practice in Minnesota tomorrow, while it's uncertain yet if Brodin and Harding will. The Wild will take the next big step in Rupp's hopeful eventual return to the ice from offseason knee surgery next week when he's put through the gauntlet. He'll get more practice reps and be tortured after practice, Yeo quipped. I'll have more on Rupp in Sunday's Star Tribune.

I also chatted with Leddy, who in case you didn't know was once drafted by the Wild in the first round and is the next Bobby Orr in the minds of many Wild fanatics. His mom, Vicki, just went on her first-ever mother-son trip and Leddy had some cool things to say. The Wild had a mother-son trip once and it was definitely a hoot.

Also, real cool story, but 18 kids from the Minnesota Special Hockey Association (the Wildcats) were brought to town by the Denis Savard Foundation. The kids, their parents and volunteers attended today's Wild and Blackhawks skates and now are going to play the Chicago Tomahawks. Savard's Foundation picked up the whole tab for 56 people. Pretty special scene down at the skate as the children watched their favorite Wild players skate. I'll have more on that in Sunday's notebook as well.

Talk to you after the game.

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Houston 7
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UAB 31
(7) UCLA 21 3rd Qtr 1:12
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Purdue 30
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Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
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Texas
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Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
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Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
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San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 3:00 PM
Seattle
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
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Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
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