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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Postgame: PK comes up large, and other thoughts after Wild's shutout over Devils

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 4, 2013 - 8:47 AM

Nice win for the Wild tonight after a slow start. Minnesota finally found its legs and took two points from a sub-par Devils team who was shorthanded by injuries, hasn’t scored now in seven periods and who played the night before.

Wild has won five of six with tonight’s 4-zip win over the Devils. Josh Harding made 19 stops for his ninth career shutout and second of the season. He’s now 7-2-1 with a 1.10 goals against average and .950 save percentage and is 6-0 at home with a 1.06 goals against average and .950 save percentage.

The Wild’s not practicing Monday, but it’s safe to say he’ll be starting Tuesday against Calgary.

Mikael Granlund scored his first goal of the season, which was his first career winning goal, extended his point streak to five games, won 6 of 10 faceoffs, had three hits and a big blocked shot on the PK.

Torrey Mitchell scored his first goal when a Zach Parise rebound ricocheted off of him. He has not clue where, but he said he’d take it. Dany Heatley, who seems to be handling fourth-line duty with a good attitude, scored on the power play and Jason Pominville scored an empty-netter for his 10th goal, which is third in the NHL.

Nino Niederreiter assisted on three goals. Wild’s won five of six and is now 2-1 on the homestand.

Good evening from the X. It’s Russo. I’m back from my friend’s wedding. It felt like I was away from the team for a month, but it’s nice to be back. I'll be live in studio at KFAN at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Before I continue, if you missed my Thomas Vanek column from Sunday, please give it a read here. Fitting after yet another big game from Granlund and Niederreiter.

Some random thoughts:

--Wild’s PK was solid tonight, going 3 for 3 and generating momentum for a change. Then the Wild learned its lesson and didn’t take another penalty after four first-period minors. But this is a good sign for a PK that has had some big kills lately but was still 28th in the NHL and had given up at least one PPG in 12 of the previous 14 games.

--The Wild also won 39 of 54 faceoffs (72 percent), with Mikko Koivu winning 14 of 20 and Kyle Brodziak winning 11 of 13. That obviously led to more and more puck possession as the night moved on. The Wild’s second in the NHL in faceoff win percentage.

-- Torrey Mitchell had a strong game and got the goal. He was elevated to top line duty with Zach Parise (assist) and Mikko Koivu.

“He’s played with energy, he’s worked his butt off all year,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I just felt Mikko and Zach needed a straight-line, hard-working [guy]. He is a team first guy. He never ever is going to turn around and say ‘what’s in it for me?’ He just wants to help the team. It’s hard to put into words how valuable that is.”

Between Mitchell and Justin Fontaine and Niederreiter, Yeo has been able to slot players up and down the lineup this year, although as far as finding a first-line right wing for Koivu and Parise, Yeo said, “I kind of would like somebody to jump up and just take it for good, but that said, when guys have gone up, they’ve responded and done the job.”

-- Heatley was good tonight, and I wrote that on Twitter before the goal. You could see it in the first when he was making some tape-to-tape passes, generating chances, not turning pucks over, winning battles.

He’s not dumb. He’s on the fourth line. He knows next stop is the press box or worse. Theoretically, if it ever got to the point where the Wild felt like it exhausted every avenue to get him playing, it could place him on waivers and send him to Iowa. Contrary to some belief out there, Heatley does not have a no-move clause. He has a limited, 10-team no-trade clause. Still, that’d be a heck of a step and I don’t think we’re anywhere near that.

So Heatley looks like he’s responded well.

“He handled it the right way,” Yeo said. “If he didn’t score that goal, I could still sit here and say that was probably his best game. He came to the rink, he had a good attitude, he never pouted. What he did was focused on his own game.”

Yeo said that if he went back and looked at Heatley’s shifts, he’d see a good forechecking game, puck strength, making plays on entries and good decisions.

“That was kind of the message, you do the right things, and eventually you’ll get rewarded,” Yeo said.

Heatley declined to come out and talk to the press tonight.

-- Granlund continues to play well. One reason why Yeo can’t find a consistent right wing for the top line is because how can he break up the Niederreiter-Granlund-Pominville line right now.

Keith Ballard got the Granlund goal started with a headman pass that was deflected at center-ice by Granlund (may have been intentionally) to send Pominville into the zone. Cory Schneider stopped Pominville, but after Niederreiter tried to bank the rebound off Schneider, Niederreiter nudged the loose puck to Granlund, who slammed it into an open net.

“I point to where he scored the goal from and I look back to where he was a year ago, and I don’t think he would have been in that position,” Yeo said of Granlund. “He’s in the middle of the ice a lot more. He’s taken everything to heart that we’ve asked from him and he just continues to grow.”

-- Hopefully Charlie Coyle is indeed day-to-day, but if he did aggravate that knee injury, one would think he’d miss some time. I’d say doubtful for Tuesday with no practice Monday.

--On the Mitchell goal, Ryan Suter fed Parise to the left of Schneider, and the Wild vet put a soft slot at the net with bodies crashing. The puck ricocheted off Schneider, off Mitchell and then former Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky and in.

There was a certain irony. Zidlicky, who demanded to be traded in 2012 because he felt handcuffed by Yeo, didn’t score a goal in 41 games during Yeo’s rookie season before being dealt to the Devils. In a way, it was Zidlicky’s first goal for Yeo.

No blog Monday unless there’s news. Talk to you Tuesday.


Atlanta 4 Bottom 7th Inning
Detroit 2
Philadelphia 1 Bottom 7th Inning
Houston 4
St. Louis 4 Top 9th Inning
Miami 1
Baltimore 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Tampa Bay 0
NY Yankees 1 Top 8th Inning
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 2:05 PM
San Francisco
Los Angeles 0 Top 1st Inning
Chicago WSox 0
San Diego 2:05 PM
Cleveland 0 Top 1st Inning
Cincinnati 0
Milwaukee 2:05 PM
LA Angels
Oakland 2:05 PM
Chicago Cubs
Texas 2:05 PM
Kansas City
Colorado 2:10 PM
NY Mets 4:05 PM
Boston 6:05 PM
Toronto 6:05 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Dallas 9:30 PM
Calgary 6:00 PM
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Niagara 4:00 PM
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Navy 6:00 PM
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
American Univ 6:00 PM
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Memphis 8:00 PM
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 34 2nd Half 14:02
Niagara 35
Massachusetts 31 2nd Half 14:53
Richmond 33
Virginia 36 2nd Half 17:36
Miami-Florida 34
Jacksonville St 28 2nd Half 10:57
Belmont 34
Morgan State 47 2nd Half 11:57
MD-Eastern Shore 41
Campbell 24 1st Half 2:43
Winthrop 21
Furman 37 2nd Half 17:57
Samford 31
Oregon 29 1st Half 4:18
Washington St 28
Indiana 6 1st Half 12:44
(23) Rutgers 14
Pepperdine 2 1st Half 16:04
Loyola Marymount 6
Auburn 2:25 PM
(18) Texas A&M
Morehead St 3:00 PM
Tennessee St
George Mason 3:30 PM
Saint Josephs
Western Carolina 3:30 PM
East Tenn St
Arizona 4:00 PM
Texas State 4:00 PM
Appalachian St
TX-Arlington 4:00 PM
Georgia Southern
SC State 4:30 PM
Delaware State 4:30 PM
Coppin State
Portland 4:30 PM
Santa Clara
Norfolk State 4:30 PM
NC A&T 4:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Georgia 5:00 PM
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 5:45 PM
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
San Francisco 8:00 PM
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Purdue 8:25 PM
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
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