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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Playoff atmosphere tonight between Wild and Blackhawks? Towels say yes

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: October 28, 2013 - 12:38 PM

Wild and Blackhawks tonight at the X, where white towels will be draped over every seat in the barn for fans to wave.

No, they’re not playoff leftovers. One person tweeted me asking humorously if they say Game 6 Western Conference quarterfinals on them.

They actually resemble the road whites that the Wild plans to wear at home tonight. Blackhawks will wear their darks, which is good because we all know Chicago never wins at home!

The Wild did manage to grab two points out of Chicago in Saturday and tonight looks to take the home-and-home sweep.

Coach Mike Yeo anticipates a lively crowd tonight. On the towels, he said, “It’s pretty cool walking out to the rink. It looks neat. It looks almost like the playoff building, so it’s going to be good excitement in the building here tonight. I just want to focus on the game. I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves and feel too good about last game. This is a new challenge. We just have to make sure that we stay sharp and stay focused and through the course of the game keep our emotions and keep our focus and be ready to play a full 60 minutes.”

Niklas Backstrom will start, while Josh Harding did practice today after missing the last game with a hammy and will back up Bax. Corey Crawford, who stoned the Wild in the playoffs but struggled the other night vs. the Wild, back in the Chicago cage.

The Wild has the same lineup as Chicago:

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

The Blackhawks lines?

Jonas Brodin skated on his own again today and his face is apparently still swollen, so it’s uncertain if he’ll practice Wednesday yet (Wild has the day off tomorrow). Charlie Coyle is improving and hopes to play Friday, but he said understandably he will only do so if he’s 100 percent. Keith Ballard and Mike Rupp again practiced today.

What does Yeo expect tonight?

“Just reading the comments [from the Hawks in the press] that they’re going to look at the tape and look at the game and try to figure some things that they have to do better,” Yeo said. “I’d like to think some of the things they weren’t happy with that we forced them into. I’d also like to think that we can be better too. I’m expecting a good game. They’re going to compete, they’re going to get after us and they’re going to try to force into mistakes, so we’ve got to be sharp.”

Tonight is Dumba’s ninth game, which means a decision’s on the horizon as to whether he stays in Minnesota or returns to Red Deer. My opinion is on one of the blog’s yesterday, so if you didn’t see, look at yesterday’s blog.

“I think he’s done a pretty good job of that for the most part,” Yeo said of not worrying about that. “We need him sharp, we need him on top of his game tonight. He’s the kind of guy that can definitely help us against this team. The defending part of it is one thing. He can skate, he can defend, he can match their speed, he can be strong one-on-one against these guys, which you absolutely need. He also has the speed to jump on loose pucks, to win loose pucks. He also has the footwork and skill to execute under pressure and relieve some of that pressure and help us to get to the offensive part of the game, which we need against this team. So I’m hoping that he comes in and does more than just don’t make mistakes. I’m hoping that he comes in and has a real impact in a positive way.”

Dumba said tonight’s just another game.

Pretty quiet day otherwise. A couple of Wisconsin guys were bragging about them Packers and Zenon Konopka said, “Ponder was awesome…after they got down by 27.”

For more on Dumba and potential line combinations once Coyle returns, read today's article here.

I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the first intermission tonight. Maybe I’ll touch on Thomas Vanek. I’ll be live in studio with Paul Allen on KFAN tomorrow morning at 9.

Talk to you after tonight’s game.

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