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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Barring injuries, Matt Dumba will be loaned to Team Canada; Look at Wild's lineup tonight

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: December 2, 2013 - 12:41 PM

The Wild hosts the Philadelphia Flyers tonight in the first of a two-game homestand. The defending Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks come to town Thursday.

Josh Harding will start for the Wild. The Flyers, who will start slugger Ray Emery, will be without veteran Vincent Lecavalier, who hurt his back in Nashville on Saturday night.

MIke Rupp is officially back on the roster. He was away from the team for a few days because of a death in his family. Zenon Konopka was also on the ice today wearing a visor after taking a puck to his left eye Friday against Colorado.

Lines tonight:

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Dany Heatley

Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Torrey Mitchell

Mike Rupp/Erik Haula/Zenon Konopka/Justin Fontaine

One of the above forwards will be scratched. Coach Mike Yeo said it's a gametime decision, but there's a good chance Haula will play because of the speed he brings, his ability to take faceoffs and because he's been responsible in his own zone.

Defense pairs will go back to normal. Yeo switched his top two defense pairs in Colorado and it didn't go well, so in the third, Ryan Suter was reunited with Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella was reunited with Jared Spurgeon to get back to some familiarity. That definitely worked for Minnesota during a dominant period.

Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard are again a pair, but they have been a little erratic and since Yeo said today that he skated up to Matt Dumba and Nate Prosser and told them that he doesn't plan on scratching them a bunch of games in a row and to get ready to play soon, it'll be interesting to watch Stoner and Ballard tonight.

Speaking of Dumba, as I wrote in Sunday's paper, GM Chuck Fletcher was strongly considering loaning Dumba to Team Canada for the world junior championships in Malmo, Sweden. It makes all the sense in the world because Dumba is barely playing here and the world juniors would be such a great developmental experience for Dumba, who has been cut the previous two years.

Barring a crazy amount of injuries in the next week, Fletcher has indeed made the decision to loan Dumba to Canada before its camp starts Dec. 12 in Toronto. The team will then head to Denmark to continue camp before the tournament starts Dec. 26. Again, if the Wild sustains injuries in the next week, Fletcher may change his mind.

Once Dumba leaves the team, that opens up a roster spot, which would also give the Wild more roster flexibility. Remember, when you carry eight defensemen, you have to make decisions like Sunday, when the Wild had to reassign Jason Zucker to Iowa once Rupp returned to the team. The Wild will also free up some cap space by Dumba not being on the roster. After the tournament ends Jan. 5, the Wild will decide whether or not to add Dumba back onto its roster or return him to Red Deer of the Western Hockey League.

The next threshold for Dumba to pass is 40 games on the Wild's roster. If he is on the roster for more than 40, his seven-year free agency clock begins to tick. With Dumba off the roster, that actually buys the Wild more time to make a decision. In other words, the games the Wild plays without Dumba won't count toward that 40-game mark.

In 1995-96, when Fletcher was assistant GM in Florida, the Panthers loaned defenseman Rhett Warrener to Canada. Warrener played 13 games before Christmas, being scratched most the time. Warrener came back from world junior, was added back to Florida's roster and was a huge part of Florida's run to the Stanley Cup final.

Coincidentally, Dumba has also played exactly 13 games.

Dumba will be Canada's go-to defenseman -- an absolute shoo-in to make the team -- and will likely get a letter on his chest from his former Red Deer coach, Brent Sutter.

"I think it’s going to be a good experience for me to go there and play my best and play a good role," Dumba said. "I hope that all works out for me. I'll work hard and do whatever it takes to reach our end result, which is getting our country gold again."

Pierre McGuire, a world junior expert, is here in Minnesota to work the NBC Sports Network telecast tonight with Doc Emrick.

"This is smart by Chuck," said McGuire. "It’s great for the kid and his time with Sutter and his connection to Red Deer is mammoth. Dumba's going to be a great player for Canada and for Minnesota in the future."

Konopka has a big shiner around his left eye and stitches on his eyelid, which had to be pleasant. He admitted that the eye doctor told him he was very, very lucky. He said he couldn't see for a few days. In that Colorado game, Konopka came back to the ice for a shift. Spurgeon sent him a pass, he knew the pass was coming, but his eye just couldn't focus, Konopka said. That's why he left the ice in a stick-swinging tantrum down the runway.

He said though he will not wear the visor permanently, that he just doesn't like it or feel comfortable with it.

That's it for now. Talk to you later.

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