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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Mike Rupp to play first NHL game in 6 1/2 months; Mikael Granlund, Josh Harding out tonight at St. Louis

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: November 25, 2013 - 1:00 PM

Rugged veteran forward Mike Rupp will play his first NHL game since May 9’s playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight when the Wild visits the St. Louis Blues.

Rupp, coming off a five-game conditioning stint with AHL Iowa as the final step in his recoup from offseason knee surgery, draws into the lineup because center Mikael Granlund will miss his second game in a row with an upper-body injury.

Coach Mike Yeo says from what he’s “been told, we don’t have reason to be concerned. We’re just calling him day-to-day and we’ll see what happens here tomorrow.”

Yeo is being hush-hush about what the issue with Granlund is. Like I wrote on yesterday’s blog, he played four games since the Nazem Kadri head shot but was hammered by Marc Methot last Wednesday in Ottawa.

Whatever the injury is, the Wild is clearly thinking there’s a chance Granlund could play Wednesday against Phoenix because if he was already ruled out for that game, the Wild could simply place Granlund on injured reserve retroactive to last Wednesday and call up a forward to replace him. Instead, the Wild is keeping Granlund off IR, which would allow him to play Wednesday if he can.

Torrey Mitchell has been placed on IR (he can come off whenever he’s healthy) and that move allows Darcy Kuemper to back up tonight. Josh Harding was not able to return to St. Louis because of a stiff hamstring that was apparently spasming in Winnipeg.

Apparently, it’s a similar injury to why he had to come out of the Carolina game Oct. 24. Niklas Backstrom played the third period of that game and then consecutive games against Chicago.

Harding’s had some awful luck in this building anyway. He strained his groin here in 2005, which thrust Backstrom onto the NHL stage initially. He tore his ACL and MCL here in his preseason debut in 2010. He also got sick in a tie game here in the preseason. Johan Gustafsson proceeded to come in and the Wild got shellacked in the third.

Same thing as Granlund, the Wild is hoping Harding is a day-to-day thing and can play this weekend. If the Wild was worried, it could put Harding on injured reserve retroactive to the time of injury, but the problem with that is he would have to miss a week.

With the tough stretch of games coming up, the Wild needs Harding back soon.

Backstrom vs. Jaroslav Halak tonight. Ken Hitchcock is going against the grain, starting Halak, who is 1-2-3 against the Wild with a 2.45 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, as opposed to Brian Elliott, who is 4-0 against the Wild with a 2.04 goals-against average.

But both St. Louis goalies are playing great and Halak is 12-3-2 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .906 save percentage (Elliott 4-0-1 with a 1.79 GAA and .932 SV%).

Nate Prosser will skate on the blue line for Minnesota. Matt Dumba is scratched. Kevin Shattenkirk didn’t skate for St. Louis this morning because of the flu, so the Wild may catch a break there.

The Blues have gotten points in 10 straight at home vs. Minnesota since Oct. 20, 2007 (7-0-3, or from the Wild’s standpoint, Minnesota is 3-5-2 in its past 10 at St. Louis).  The Blues have won five in a row vs. the Wild and is 5-0-1 in the past six.

The Blues have scored in 12 of the past 13 periods against Minnesota, at least three goals in three straight home games against Minnesota and outshot the Wild by at least 18 shots in each of the last three home games and 117-60 overall.

So, tough task tonight.

The Rupp-Zenon Konopka-Dany Heatley line should be an interesting one. Konopka is suddenly the best skater on the line, but if that line can play in the offensive zone and ask some size and physicality, it could be utilized well by the Wild tonight.

Yeo said he’s “anxious to have [Rupp] back and his teammates are, too.”

Rupp said the games in Iowa were a good thing for him.

“From Game 1 to Game 5, I’m pleased with the progress in that time,” Rupp said, saying he was trying to just get rid of some bad habits by not playing for so long.

What’s good for Rupp is he gets back to the Wild and can immediately play. A week ago when the Wild had Granlund and Mitchell, Rupp extended his conditioning stint because he thought it would be beneficial to him but because he also knew the Wild wasn’t about to fiddle with its winning lineup.

So Rupp would have done the rehab thing and then risked getting rusty again in the press box. Now he gets to continue getting back into the swing of playing again.

“I’m pleased with what progress has been made in the last 10 days,” Rupp said. “It’s been really good in my head. I want to keep building on that. The more I’m getting reps in practice and the more I’m playing, the stronger I’m going to get.”

Rupp said more than nerves tonight, there’s more “anticipation.”

“The NHL season is a big groove, and you want to find that as quick as you can,” Rupp said. “I’m joining a team that’s been playing really well, so you just want to try to be a part of it and build from game to game.”

I talked to David Backes, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter a lot about the U.S. leadership group they're a part of with Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan for the Olympics. That will be in tomorrow's paper. I'm also working ahead on a pretty fun story that will hopefully run Wednesday.


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Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
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Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
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Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
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Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
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Houston 12:00 PM
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Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
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(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
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(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
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(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
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Iowa State
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San Diego St
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(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Ottawa 3:00 PM
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