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: Was Wild's response to Nazem Kadri's hits appropriate?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 14, 2013 - 8:03 AM

Update: Kadri has a noon CT hearing today for steamrolling Niklas Backstrom. This has two games written all over it. The league is not further disciplining him on Granlund hit.

The Wild improved to 5-0-1 in its past six and 8-1-2 in its past 11 by rallying for a 2-1 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

As always, please read the game story for all the good, but Zach Parise tied the game with 4:17 left before Parise and Jason Pominville scored in the shootout to lift Minnesota to a game it pretty unarguably deserved to win.

Other than its power play continually failing them, the Wild severely outchanced Toronto. Jonathan Bernier was great as usual against the Wild (eight goals allowed in 434 minutes against Minnesota) and the Maple Leafs’ defenders continually got sticks in the Wild’s way to knock chances out of harm’s way.

The big story of the way was menace Nazem Kadri, the 2009 seventh overall pick. He knocked Niklas Backstrom out of the game 10 ½ minutes in by not only barreling him over, but giving him a forearm shiver to the head.

Backstrom sustained an “upper-body” injury, which means he’ll need to see an “upper-body” specialist for an “upper-body” baseline test. Later, Kadri, who was running around all game with no Wild players challenging him (he once hog-tied Nino Niederreiter and sent him to the ice, creamed Mikael Granlund for a match penalty hit to the head.

The one on Backstrom I think will be really scrutinized by the league (as all the Wild players said, it's the type of blow to the head the league wants to rid), especially if the NHL sees the hit on Granlund the way Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle saw it: “It’s beyond me the five-minute major. I just looked at it. He made initial contact with the shoulder and the kid had the head down. (Kadri) didn’t have his arms up and he ran into the player and Granlund snapped his head back. Obviously the referee’s saw it differently and obviously when it’s a five-minute match penalty it’ll be reviewed.”

Kadri wasn’t made available. Josh Harding came in and made 19 saves to improve to 10-2-2.

The big story of the game though was Toronto creating havoc, taking runs at guys (Marco Scandella, Granlund, Jared Spurgeon, Niederreiter obviously Backstrom) and the Wild not doing the same. Now, the Wild could have made Toronto pay if its power play wasn’t, as Yeo admitted, “out of sorts.” Also, because the Wild was trying to rally, Zenon Konopka only played seven shifts. Also, Mike Rupp’s in Iowa on a rehab stint.

But maybe the lack of response did show that the Wild may need to spot Rupp in against some of the more aggressive teams in the NHL. As of now, if the Wild’s healthy up front, it’ll be hard for Rupp to get games. But there may be times where Yeo may need to consider him.

Yeo said, “Do we match up against that team's toughness? No, we don’t. If we want to start trading off, we go after Kadri, next thing you know, what are they going to go after? They’re going to go after our guys too and again we don’t match up in that toughness department against them. Now we do have a team that cares about each other very much, and we stick up for each other, trust me. You saw Brodzy (Kyle Brodziak) getting in there for Nino and you saw guys competing and battling and trying to have that team toughness. Between the whistles and the way we fought through this game and found a way to win, that’s a message too to your teammates.”

The Wild just aren’t built like Toronto, so while there may be times where the Wild may be exposed for what even Yeo admits is a lack of toughness, I’m not overly concerned this is a huge problem yet. Some fans were tweeting me incessantly that the Wild are “soft.” The reality is, this is the first time all season a team came in intent on trying to push the Wild around, and the end result?

The Wild completely outplayed that team and ended up taking two points. At the end of the day, this alleged soft team has gotten points in 10 of the last 11 games and the last six. So this is not as big a deal yet as I think these fans are making it out to be.

The power play was an issue tonight. I’m not a big fan of Jason Pominville in the slot, although on the major, he nearly scored from that area. I just like his booming shot from the point. I think he’s more effective there. I also love the chemistry with Coyle on the top line with Parise and Mikko Koivu, so to me, keep that going and if you want a right-shot on the second unit, toss Justin Fontaine in the middle or use Jared Spurgeon there. I also don’t like the No. 2 unit without Niederreiter. But the past few power plays tonight, Yeo went with a second unit of Granlund, Coyle, Heatley, Brodin and Scandella.

Yeo said the Wild obviously has to look at the power play.

I thought the Wild’s D played real well again tonight. Under the radar has been Spurgeon. He has kind of been overshadowed by Ryan Suter’s 108 minutes the past three games (most ice time in a three-game stretch since ice time started to be tracked in 2000 (according to Elias) and Marco Scandella’s rising game. But Spurgeon’s been good in every zone.

Harding, sick last night, came in cold and again was solid, especially late in overtime. Just a good two points, and the Wild needed a puck off two skates to beat Jonathan Bernier (33 saves).

Yeo gave some good kudos tonight to Brodziak, Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine, who went up a lot against Phil Kessel’s line and also helped create momentum after the failed five-minute major before Parise’s equalizer. Wild could have won in regulation if not for Bernier. After Parise’s goal, it was all Wild.

“Bernier was lights out. It was one of the better goaltending performances I’ve seen this year,” Harding said.

Talk to you Thursday after practice. Check out my Charlie Coyle notebook and my Wild Minute with actor Erik Stolhanske.


Tennessee 7:25 PM
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
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