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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Charlie Coyle returns tonight against the Calgary Flames

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: November 5, 2013 - 12:31 PM

UPDATED

Well, you've got to admit the first-line RW story in today's newspaper at least read well.

Of course, it's outdated now.

Torrey Mitchell won't be the first-line right wing tonight. Nor will Justin Fontaine.

That's because when the Wild said Charlie Coyle was day-to-day, it meant it. Coyle, who missed the last game vs. New Jersey with knee soreness, will return tonight against scrappy Calgary, and will play right wing next to Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.

Mitchell is on the fourth line with Dany Heatley and Zenon Konopka, while Fontaine is on the checking line with Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak.

Coyle said he tweaked his knee late in Friday's game against Montreal, but doctors tell him the knee is stable and he says he'll just have to maybe play through soreness the next few weeks or even months. It'll be interesting to see how he plays off the hop. He has missed 12 of 13 games since one game and a half to start the season. The league has ramped up while Coyle's been sidelined, so don't be surprised if it takes Coyle a little time to get up to snuff.

He has missed a lot of time.

The hope is Coyle can help Parise and Koivu break out at even-strength. Koivu and Parise have combined for nine 5-on-5 points in 15 games this season.

"Adds a lot to that line," coach Mike Yeo said. "We’ve seen a lot of moving parts on that side, so we get a guy that both Mikko and Zach are not only familiar with ... but can help them play at their best."

Yeo says the chances have been there, but like Koivu and Parise, he wants to see more finish. But he feels consistency on that line can only help because some nights, shift to shift or period to period, they're playing with a different right wing.

"The goals will come," Coyle said. "As long as we just get on the puck and forecheck and play hard down low and win battles, we’ll be OK."

Coyle said he did come away from that PK Subban open-ice hit from behind scot-free in the third. He said it just shook him up at the time, "but I'm good. I'm good."

Interesting message coming from the Wild's room this morning. You know how I always say things are never as bad as they seem when you're losing and never as good as they seem when you're winning, well, the Wild has won five of six, which has masked some concerns.

The message today is the Wild is not playing as well as it was at the beginning of the season when it was losing games and it better find a way to improve.

Tonight is an interesting game. The Flames may not have Iggy and Kipper anymore, but they're a hard-working team that just walked into Chicago and took two points behind a rookie goalie who played lights out.

Simple recipe tonight: Wild outworks the Flames, it likely wins. Get outworked, it likely loses.

Same D tonight, meaning Matt Dumba sits for a third game in a row. The D is playing well, the Wild's suddenly healthy with eight defensemen, he's coming off a poor game. Easy decision to sit him.

Yeo believes Dumba's development won't be stalled by hanging out for a little longer, being a sponge and working with assistants Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor. However, Yeo is of the mind that young kids must play, so it'll be interesting how long the Wild is willing to keep scratching him.

The risk of sending him back is that if the Wild suddenly runs into injuries again like when it lost Jonas Brodin and Keith Ballard at the same time, it would then have to turn toward Iowa beyond of course Nate Prosser. So the Dumba decision has a lot to do with how comfortable the Wild feels about its depth beyond Prosser -- i.e. Jon Blum, Kyle Medvec, Steve Kampfer, Tyler Cuma, etc.

GM Chuck Fletcher said, "We'll see how things go."

In other words, why make a decision today when you can make one tomorrow or the next day?

Carson McMillan skated, but with Coyle looking like he'll return, McMillan is probably Iowa-bound soon.

Josh Harding vs. Reto "Don't call me Yogi" Berra. Yeo would love to get Nik Backstrom back into a rhythm, but the way Harding has been playing (1.10 GAA and .950 SV% to lead the NHL), he is making this a no-decision. Just know, Yeo will have to eventually spot Backstrom a start no matter how Harding is doing.

With his multiple sclerosis and his propensity for injuries the past number of seasons, the Wild will not and can not run him into the ground. He will need to rest at times.

That's it for me. Have to continue working ahead on a couple features for Thursday and Saturday. In my game notebook in Wednesday's paper, I'll have more on Coyle, Dumba and Jason Pominville indeed being very much back on the Olympic radar for USA, USA, USA, USA!

Remember, he was born in Canada, but has dual citizenship. No USA-eligible player has more goals than Pominville's 10.

Talk to you tonight.

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