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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Matt Dumba reaches significant 10th game; Josh Harding starting for the Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: November 9, 2013 - 12:07 PM

Mike Yeo skated up to Matt Dumba near the end of this morning's pregame skate and asked, "Ready to go tonight?"

Dumba told him, "yes."

With Clayton Stoner injured with a minor leg issue, the 19-year-old Dumba will play his benchmark 10th game tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. That means the first year of his three-year contract will burn off even if the Wild opts to return him to WHL Red Deer at a later date.

This does not mean he's necessarily here for the season. The next key mark is 41 games because that triggers his seven-year free-agency clock to start.

But most likely Dumba will be here for awhile now because while GM Chuck Fletcher has said all along he didn't care if his three-year deal kicks in, he does care if it kicks in at Game 10 and then you send him back to Red Deer for the year after Game 11 or 12 or 13 or something. That makes no sense. So essentially, the Wild has made the decision to keep Dumba here for significantly longer.

That should bring some ease to Dumba's game. He admitted after a rocky Game 9 against Chicago that the 9-game plateau was too much in his head.

"For it to be my 10th game in the positon I’m in is nice, but I have to keep building from there and hopefully I get the 20th game and 30th game and so on," Dumba said.

Dumba had been scratched in four consecutive games, so Yeo reminded the rookie that he must move the puck quick and decisively tonight against a high-pressure Canes team.

Josh Harding vs. Jeff Peters tonight. Carolina has to start Peters. If it didn't, you or I would have to probably start. Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin are hurt, although Ward took the ice in pads for the first time late in today's skate.

But the Wild thought seriously about starting Niklas Backstrom tonight. Instead, the team will continue to ride the red-hot Harding, who leads the league with a 1.16 goals against average and .949 save percentage. He has allowed 14 goals in 13 games.

Backstrom had a long huddle with goalie coach Bob Mason on the ice after the skate, and Yeo said that Backstrom will almost certainly start at least one of the games on the upcoming three-game homestand. He must, because he will certainly have to start at Montreal or at Ottawa in back-to-back games the following week.

Right-shot D Nate Prosser will move to the left side and be paired with Dumba, although my guess is Ryan Suter gets a bunch of ice time and Yeo said Marco Scandella can bite off more minutes. Last year, Yeo didn't have confidence that Prosser could play the off wing. It's just a different animal because you're playing pucks off the wall on your backhand.

Prosser said he has played the left side a "decent" amount in his career and it's no big deal to him at all.

Mike Rupp is looking better. The Wild has talked to him about a conditioning stint in Iowa. Rupp says he is ready and hopes that rehab stint comes this upcoming week.

I'll have some fun notes on yesterday's hoops game in tomorrow's paper. In a knockout game, Scandella beat Yeo in the finals, although said it's not fair because he lost to a guy who can dunk. Scandella said he beat Yeo "easily."

For more on the Wild hoops game, I did my Wild Minute with the players in the background. That can be seen on www.startribune.com/wild.

That's it for now. Talk later.

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