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 status for Sunday unclear; Another goaltender pickle for the Wild?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: December 21, 2013 - 2:14 PM

First day of winter here in New York City and it’s a balmy 60 degrees outside. Sunday, the high is supposed to get to 66.

The Wild, looking to rebound from Thursday’s 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh, takes on the struggling New York Rangers on Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. CT. I will be on Fox Sports North during the 6 p.m. pregame show and first intermission.

Today, the Wild practiced over at the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers. The rink backs up to the Law & Order: SVU sound stage. Back in the day when I was at the rink covering a Panthers practice, I was able to actually walk on the sets, like the precinct and DA’s office and courtroom.

I was hoping to do the same today, maybe even film my Wild Minute with a gavel in my hand. Alas, the set was locked, but I was able to mosey around the props area, which was pretty neat.

Over on the ice, coach Mike Yeo ran the Wild through a second consecutive up-tempo practice. Mikael Granlund pretty much skated on every line and looked like a player begging to return to the lineup.

Afterward, Yeo said Granlund had another “great practice,” but then he said it’s a day-to-day process right now and he doesn’t know if he’ll return against the Rangers.

Something changed in the past few days. In Pittsburgh, Yeo said it was his decision not to play Granlund because he only had one practice under his belt Tuesday at home and a couple good days of practice Friday and Saturday may do the trick. After practice Friday though, Yeo revealed that Granlund hasn’t officially been given clearance to return to game action.

Today, Yeo said vaguely that the decision is not his. Athletic therapist Don Fuller will tell Yeo when Granlund can return after consultation with team doctors and Granlund. Through a spokesman, GM Chuck Fletcher, who is not with the team, said the Wild will let the media know when Granlund is cleared to play and the team has no comment.

Basically, the Wild is going to be careful with him. He was rushed back into the lineup last time and lasted a shift, so they want to make sure this time. One issue is if he winds up not playing Sunday or Monday, remember, there are no NHL practices allowed Dec. 24, 25 and 26 prior to the Wild’s game in Winnipeg on Dec. 27. So if he doesn’t return before the break, will he be able to return right after the break?

Frankly, I’ve got the same curiosity about Josh Harding. The Wild says it expects him back Dec. 27 in Winnipeg, but I can’t imagine he’d be able to play after not being with the team for more than a week.

Back to Granlund, Yeo said if he gets word Granlund’s playing, he’ll look at it as a bonus. If not, he’s focusing on the lines I posted yesterday. Yeo again said it’s time for some of his non-existent offensive players to step up and contribute. I’ll write more about one in Sunday’s paper. Yeo did say if Granlund returns, he would likely be reunited with Jason Pominville. Their chemistry was tremendous in late October and prior to Granlund getting hurt.

Just an FYI, there is no morning skate Sunday because Madison Square Garden has a women’s basketball doubleheader during the day. Besides the fact that this should make for the typical garbage ice that MSG is world famous for, the Wild players, who have gameday routines, aren’t even allowed at the rink earlier in the day to work on sticks and stuff like that.

I don’t know how the NHL allows this, but regardless, we won’t know about Granlund until at least Yeo’s pregame availability around 5:05 p.m. CT.

So, don’t ask me on Twitter if Granlund’s playing!!!!

In other goaltending news, and proving nothing ever, ever, ever goes easy for Yeo and the Wild, the team was expected to make a goalie swap today and bring up Darcy Kuemper to back up Niklas Backstrom against the Rangers and maybe start him against the Flyers.

Kuemper is on fire right now in the A (here's his game logs), has been one of the three stars in seven of his past eight starts and is coming off a 44-save shutout against Hamilton last night – one of four 40-save performances in his past 12. He’s given up two goals or fewer in his last four starts.

Well, guess what? Listening between the lines to Yeo today, coupled with the fact that I noticed Kuemper missed some time last week in Abbotsford and got crushed at one juncture in last night's game, I get the impression Kuemper’s hurt.

The only thing Yeo would say is he knows he had a great game last night, but he’s not necessarily coming up. As of now, there’s no transaction of Kuemper’s recall, which means Gustafsson is likely staying.

Backstrom will start vs. the Rangers.

The big question is who starts in Philadelphia. Gustafsson is only 21 and has had an inconsistent season his rookie year in the AHL, so would the Wild be willing to throw him to the wolves against the Flyers for his NHL debut? It’s not like he can’t tend goal. He competes and is athletic and he's had great seasons in Sweden and led Sweden to gold at world juniors a few years back. But I do know that the Wild has felt he's not ready.

Or, will Backstrom, 35, have to start on back-to-back nights? Obviously, Backstrom’s performance and how much work he endures against the Rangers will be the deciding factor for Yeo and goalie coach Bob Mason.

Whatever’s ailing Kuemper, if he suddenly gets better, he’d likely fly directly from Des Moines to Philadelphia.

Talk to you Sunday.


Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston 3 FINAL
Baltimore 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox 10 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Cleveland 7 Top 8th Inning
Minnesota 2
Detroit 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Kansas City 4
Seattle 3 Bottom 7th Inning
Houston 4
Los Angeles 6 Bottom 6th Inning
Chicago Cubs 4
Texas 0 Top 5th Inning
LA Angels 0
Philadelphia 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
Oakland 3
San Francisco 0 Top 3rd Inning
San Diego 0
Arizona 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Colorado 1
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 7 2nd Qtr 14:30
Arizona 3
Denver 0 1st Qtr 5:50
Seattle 3
Kansas City 0 1st Qtr 7:30
Miami 0
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 4:00 PM
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) 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
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) 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
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
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) 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
(13) 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
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
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
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) 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
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) 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
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
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
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 2nd Half 15:00
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 7 15:00
Saskatchewan 3
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