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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Mikael Granlund practices, getting closer to return with the Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild practice Updated: December 16, 2013 - 1:14 PM


Wild second-line center Mikael Granlund, who has missed the past nine games with a concussion and 11 of the past 12 (really 12 in a row because he was lost one shift into his return Nov. 27 against Phoenix, returned to practice this morning at Xcel Energy Center.

Granlund, who had been skating on his own since last week, skated with extra forwards Justin Fontaine and Mike Rupp, which also indicates that Mike Yeo will return with the same lineup as the Colorado win on Tuesday against the red-hot Vancouver Canucks, who have won seven in a row.

Granlund said he felt surprisingly good on the ice, and coach Mike Yeo said athletic therapist Don Fuller told him that Granlund wants to play vs. the Canucks. Yeo said that's very doubtful, but Yeo said he would come on the upcoming road trip to practice and he is close to returning.

My guess is he plays against the Rangers because that would give him practices Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, but I've been wrong before and maybe Thursday's Pittsburgh game is a possibility.

The Wild could use him.

Including the Phoenix game that Granlund skated 29 seconds in, the Wild is 5-6-1 without Granlund with 18 goals scored (1.5 goals per game).

I do think Granlund needs to be more cognizant on the ice. He is 21 years old with a history of concussions. The Wild doesn't want Granlund to become the next Pierre-Marc Bouchard six years before Bouchard ever became the concussed version of Bouchard.

The Nazem Kadri hit that clearly started this whole mess was a dirty hit -- plain and simple. But Granlund's got to expect stuff like that. The Connor Murphy incident against Phoenix was also something Granlund needs to expect. Granlund initiated the contact by trying to check Murphy as he passed the puck. Murphy reacted by getting his arms up to protect himself. Granlund's got to be aware that could happen.

I respect Granlund's willingness to go into the dirty areas and be physical despite being undersized -- so to speak, but if he's going to continue to do this, he's got to learn to protect himself and keep his head on a swivel. The great undersized players in this league, from Martin St. Louis to Patrick Kane, are slippery and rarely take big hits.

"There’s things you can learn," Yeo said. "There’s certain situations where you can learn to protect yourself in and there’s times where, especially in this league, that you can't get away with some of the things that you were getting away with in other leagues. You have to be careful, too. One of the things that makes him great is the way he competes, and I think he’s done a great job going to the middle of the ice and creating a lot more offense because of that. We have to make sure we’re helping him in many areas in many ways as far as how he can protect himself. At the same time, you have to make sure you bring that competitive edge, too."

Granlund agreed, "You need to be smart. I feel that’s part of my game to go to those little holes and try to make tough plays. I really don’t want to get away from that. But I need to be smart and that’s something I should learn more."

Couple other storylines:

-- Matt Cooke has been part of the Vancouver-Minnesota rivalry from the Canucks' point of view. This will be his first taste from the Wild's. These are no longer division rivals, but there's still that hatred between the two teams even though we're oddly 35 games into this season and they're facing each other for the first time.

Cue the Cookie Monster: "I now have thankfully earned the trust of the fans here in Minnesota – and media members as well, so it’s different." He expects a physical, tight game.

-- Defenseman Keith Ballard, who spent the past three years with the Canucks, took a lot of "cut the cord" shots from Wild teammates and staff this morning when he was in the hallway chatting with several former teammates like Ryan Kesler (the Canucks practice here at the X in a short bit).

Ballard had his struggles for former coach Alain Vigneault in Vancouver, but he's on a two-year deal with his hometown Wild and Yeo is happy with his game. He's sustained two injuries this year -- a concussion and broken ribs, both coming when he was playing well. Yeo said after the ribs, it took Ballard five games or so to rediscover his game, but he's happy with Ballard's game the past couple and loves the competitiveness that Ballard brings to a Wild D corps that's not the most physical (I'm saying the last part, not Yeo).

-- The Canucks are playing awesome right now. They are playing a true game under new coach John Tortorella, have the best PK in the league and have been good on the road. Kesler, who will center a line for the U.S. in Sochi, is playing on a tremendous line with Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli. The line has 20 points during Vancouver's 7-game winning streak.

Kesler is playing in a shutdown role, and may be a Selke frontrunner. Guys like Eric Staal, David Legwand, Paul Stastny, Martin Hanzal, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron have gotten squat going head-to-head vs. Kesler recently.

He's got 15 goals and 11 on the road.

Tortorella typically doesn't give a darn about history, so one assumes Roberto Luongo will start. Luongo is typically lights-out against the Wild at home, but he's terrible at the X. At the X, he's 3-9-2 with a 3.56 goals-against average and .873 save percentage, and that includes a 0-0 tie in his first-ever start at the X with Florida in 2000. I was there in a different role. Luongo has been pulled in his past three starts here and has just had such struggles here that Vigneault didn't play him in Minnesota since Oct. 19, 2010.

That's it for me. Josh Harding is expected to start vs. the Canucks. Talk Tuesday.


Tennessee 12/18/14 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 100 1st OT 0:48
San Antonio 101
Milwaukee 41 3rd Qtr
Portland 43
Houston 25 2nd Qtr
Denver 29
Indiana 29 2nd Qtr 10:40
LA Clippers 32
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 0 2nd Prd 17:46
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 61 2nd Half 0:55
Auburn 78
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 55 2nd Half 0:12
Cincinnati 56
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 38 2nd Half 14:45
Cal Poly 32
Central Arkansas 30 2nd Half
New Mexico 35
Howard 25 2nd Half 19:11
Pepperdine 28
Portland 22 1st Half 5:42
CS-Northridge 0 1st Half 19:12
Oregon 0
Grambling St 0 1st Half 17:37
Washington 2
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 20 2nd Half 18:30
San Francisco 30
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