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 looks to complete home-and-home sweep against the Blackhawks

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: October 27, 2013 - 2:54 PM

The Wild held an optional practice here at the X today in preparation for Monday's home game against the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks. The Wild will wear its road whites and currently towels resembling those uni's are being draped over every seat.

I will be on Fox Sports North's pregame show and first intermission Monday, so please tune in for some astute insight. I'll also be on Siriusxm NHL Network Radio on Monday at 8:45 a.m. CT.

Johan Gustafsson was reassigned to the Iowa Wild on Sunday because Josh Harding, who sustained a strained left hamstring Thursday, is expected to skate Monday morning and back up Niklas Backstrom later that night.

Charlie Coyle, Keith Ballard and Mike Rupp practiced today, with Coyle and Rupp staying on a long, long time after practice working with the assistants. Jonas Brodin skated before practice. All four won't play against the Blackhawks, but Friday against Montreal may be a possibility for Coyle, Ballard and Brodin to return.

Coach Mike Yeo admitted today that he and his staff spent part of the short plane ride back from Chicago last night discussing potential line combinations and defense pairs once guys like Coyle return.

It'll be interesting because Mikael Granlund has assumed Coyle's No. 2 center role and is playing very well alongside Jason Pominville.

Do you maybe put Coyle at second-line center again and move Granlund to left wing, and then if that happens, where do you put Nino Niederreiter? Or, do you maybe have Coyle return to last year's role to start out and put him back at top-line right wing with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, and then if that happens, where do you put Justin Fontaine, who has played well up top?

All good problems to have.

It's impressive this season that the Wild has been able to keep its head above water without Backstrom (thanks to Harding) and without Coyle (thanks to Granlund and others) and the past two games, Brodin (thanks to quality play from the defense, particularly Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser).

Monday will be Matt Dumba's ninth game and then the Wild has to decide whether or not to return him to Red Deer. Again, he can stay and it would burn the first year of his contract. GM Chuck Fletcher has said over and over again that he's not worried about that.

I think he stays, for no other reason than what this last week proved. It is so simple to lose two defensemen, and we just saw that with Brodin and Ballard going down. If Dumba wasn't here, the Wild would have had to turn to Iowa.

Not only do I feel it would help Dumba's development to continue to work with Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor, he adds much-needed depth. I just think it's risky to return him now, and if it's true Fletcher could care less if Dumba's three-year contract kicks in, why send him back? It's not like his development has been hurt by spending this past month in the NHL. He's learning on and off the ice, and witnessing what it takes to be a pro.

This is just my opinion. We'll find out what the Wild feels soon.

The Blackhawks should be pumped to avenge Saturday's 5-3 loss as the Wild looks to win its fourth in a row overall and fifth in a row at home.

"Games like tonight, we’re not happy with the result or the way things went tonight," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday's game. "I think we should all be disappointed with the way things evolved tonight and be excited that we get them on Monday.”

The Hawks didn't practice Sunday.

Yeo said he expects to see different looks from Chicago and they should expect to see different looks from the Wild.

"It should be an entertaining, intense game," Yeo said.

Yeo was happy with the Wild's penalty kill in Chicago. When the Wild needed big kills, it got big kills and he wants the Wild to keep its urgency level high on the PK, which shouldn't be too hard against a team with as many weapons as the Hawks, Yeo said.

BUT, Yeo added, "We have to quit taking seven penalties in a game. We just put our penalty killers under so much pressure," not to mention rust up non-penalty killers and give opponents momentum.

Stay out of the box was Yeo's message. The Wild has been on the PK 26 times in the past five games.

That's it for me. Talk to you after Monday's morning skate. I'll be in studio with Paul Allen on KFAN on Tuesday at 9 a.m.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Detroit 20 2nd Qtr 9:59
Philadelphia 32
Portland 23 2nd Qtr 11:15
Cleveland 31
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Boston 7:00 PM
Dallas 7:00 PM
Denver 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
New York
Charlotte 7:30 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Washington 9:30 PM
Toronto 6:30 PM
New Jersey
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Chicago 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Temple 30 1st Half 3:24
UCF 18
Winthrop 27 1st Half 3:34
Coastal Carolina 27
Lafayette 23 1st Half 3:09
Colgate 27
Northeastern 18 1st Half 3:40
Drexel 13
Wake Forest 21 1st Half 6:32
Florida State 14
Rhode Island 22 1st Half 5:08
Fordham 27
Delaware 34 1st Half 2:21
James Madison 32
South Carolina 23 1st Half 4:44
LSU 24
New Hampshire 21 1st Half 5:59
Maine 8
Seton Hall 30 1st Half 2:49
Marquette 25
Binghamton 23 1st Half 5:50
American Univ 29 1st Half 4:22
Navy 24
Elon 14 1st Half 5:17
UNC-Wilmington 29
Wright State 31 1st Half 2:39
Oakland 21
Minnesota 20 1st Half 1:57
Penn State 33
Duquesne 19 1st Half 4:40
Richmond 40
SMU 23 1st Half 4:00
South Florida 20
Hartford 26 1st Half 4:06
Stony Brook 18
Albany 23 1st Half 1:05
Vermont 17
Hofstra 26 1st Half 3:51
William & Mary 44
UNC-Asheville 27 1st Half 4:51
Longwood 17
Radford 6:30 PM
Char Southern
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 8 1st Half 15:48
Notre Dame 7
Texas Tech 2 1st Half 17:33
Oklahoma 0
Oregon State 7:00 PM
Arizona State
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Drake 7:00 PM
Lehigh 7:00 PM
Rice 7:00 PM
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Northern Iowa 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Louisville 8:00 PM
Boston College
St Johns 8:00 PM
East Carolina 8:00 PM
Georgia Tech 8:00 PM
Miss State 8:00 PM
Ole Miss
Clemson 8:00 PM
NC State
Indiana 8:00 PM
Kansas 8:00 PM
Oregon 9:00 PM
Air Force 9:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 10:00 PM
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 28 1st Half 4:45
Binghamton 24
Akron 21 1st Half 2:04
Ohio U 32
Ball State 34 1st Half 3:41
Miami-Ohio 13
Memphis 18 1st Half 3:58
Cincinnati 17
East Carolina 8 1st Half 7:41
(2) Connecticut 33
Murray State 25 1st Half 1:46
Eastern Illinois 28
Kent State 24 1st Half 3:37
Central Michigan 31
UT Martin 40 1st Half 2:25
Tennessee St 28
Eastern Michigan 31 1st Half 4:30
Western Mich 30
Bucknell 30 1st Half 1:29
Lehigh 30
Indiana 23 1st Half 3:06
Michigan State 28
Colgate 34 1st Half 4:30
Lafayette 17
Fordham 31 1st Half 1:02
Davidson 22
Duquesne 23 1st Half 3:10
St Bonaventure 18
George Mason 24 1st Half 3:39
VA Commonwealth 29
Detroit 14 1st Half 3:07
Youngstown St 27
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 7:00 PM
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Kansas State
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Denver 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Austin Peay 7:00 PM
Kansas 7:00 PM
Iowa State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Penn State 7:00 PM
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Boise State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Utah State 8:00 PM
San Diego State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nevada 9:00 PM
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