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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Wild vs. Flyers: Veilleux recalled; Stoner out, Prosser in; World junior TV info

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild pregame skate Updated: December 23, 2013 - 12:04 PM

Wild and Flyers tonight at Wells Fargo Center on NBC Sports Network as both teams look to head into the NHL's holiday hiatus on a high. Dave Strader upstairs, Pierre McGuire between the benches.

The Flyers will be looking for their first nine-game home winning streak since 2005. During their eight-game home winning streak, they have outscored their opponents 32-15. Guys like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are running hot.

The Wild has lost seven of its last eight road games (1-6-1) with eight goals in that span and have no regulation road wins since Nov. 20. They did manage to score first for the first time in 11 road games last night at the Garden, so they’ve got that going for them.

Niklas Backstrom vs. Steve Mason tonight.

The Wild reassigned Erik Haula this morning and recalled the red-headed wonder, Stephane Veilleux.

Why would the lowest-scoring team in the Western Conference do that?

“Penalty killer, energy, emotion, physical,” coach Mike Yeo said. “We always like when Steph’s in our lineup because we know what we’re going to get with him. I think it’s important to have a fourth line that’s bringing that speed, that identity.”

Haula is not a fourth-liner and shouldn’t be. Yeo talked about after New York’s second goal last night, he put his fourth line out to get a momentum shift. Instead, there was a turnover and they were pinned in their zone.

“It would be useful,” Yeo said, to have a fourth line that can get the puck deep, get the momentum back and “help us get back to our game.” Veilleux can provide that, Yeo said.

My guess is Zenon Konopka comes back into the lineup and centers Veilleux and Torrey Mitchell.

The other three lines, Yeo said, he’s keeping a surprise.

He did say there will be some changes. I didn’t get the impression Yeo will split Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu today.

Parise’s a minus-5 on the trip, Koivu a minus-4. They have no points. I think with Mikael Granlund back in the lineup, it’s worth trying. I think it’s just too easy to load up on Koivu and Parise together on the road, but Yeo said the Granlund-Jason Pominville tandem is a “pretty difficult tandem to deal with as well. We do believe ti have those guys situated like that we do have more than one line to concentrate on.”

But why doesn’t he ever split Parise and Koivu?

“Mikko is a skilled player and needs skilled players with him,” Yeo said. “He needs guys, you look around the league, we’re not the only team to do that. I don’t want to start naming off centermen, but first-line centermen generally are going to play with first-line wingers. Skilled players need to play with skilled players. That’s what it comes down to.”

Again though, if you consider Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle skilled, I don’t see why Koivu in the middle can’t be experimented with. The Wild is too one and done offensively. Get the puck in, try to win the battle and leave the zone when it doesn’t. If they do with the cycle battle, it usually results in one shot and out of the zone.

I like the size of a Niederreiter-Koivu-Coyle line on the cycle and the speed and plays a Parise-Granlund-Pominville line could bring. We’ll see.

Clayton Stoner will miss tonight’s game with a lower-body injury. Nate Prosser will play for the first time in 14 games (Nov. 25).

Yeo said, “He’s such a great pro. He’s done this. It’s not an easy job, a lot of guys can’t do it,” but he just wants Prosser to come in and “be effective in his game, provide a spark,” compete hard and defend hard.”

Prosser said just that, that he plans to flip the switch at the opening faceoff and be tough to play against.

Team meeting this morning and the big topic was being mentally tougher than folding up its tents with one goal against or bad portions of game. Yeo watched last night’s game again and felt the Wild actually had a better first half of the game than it has in some time.

Talk to you tonight. The good folks at TSN report defenseman Matt Dumba won’t face a suspension for his kneeing major in yesterday’s world junior championships tune-up game.

Speaking of which:

NEW YORK (December 18, 2013) – NHL Network-U.S. and NHL.com will
offer fans in the United States the opportunity to watch live competition
from the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship
, Dec. 26-Jan. 5 from Malmo, Sweden. The IIHF World Junior Championship
features the top men's hockey players in the world under the age of 20 and
is one of the featured events on the world hockey calendar each year.

        NHL Network-U.S. will broadcast 18 live contests from the 2014 IIHF
World Junior Championship, including every game from Team USA's group –
which features games against Canada, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia –
as well as the quarterfinals, semifinals, and bronze- and gold-medal games.
A complete schedule is below and available on www.nhlnetwork.com.

        Steve Mears, co-host of NHL Network’s NHL Live, will provide the
play-by-play along with NCAA/junior hockey analyst Dave Starman. TV/radio
host Jill Savage will serve as the rink-side reporter.

        NHL.com will provide a live stream of all Team USA tournament games
(available only in the U.S.) as well as the latest information from the
tournament, including news, recaps and select game highlights.

      In 2013, the United States took home gold by defeating defending
champion Sweden, 3-1, in the final. That earned Team USA its third medal
from the last four IIHF World Junior Championships, to go with gold in 2010
and bronze in 2011.

       2014 IIHF World Junior Championship NHL Network-U.S. Schedule
                Dec. 26, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014 • Malmo, Sweden
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Date         |Matchup           |Time (Local/ET)  |Live        |
|             |                  |                 |Streaming   |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Thurs., Dec. |Canada vs. Germany|1:30 p.m./7:30   |            |
|26           |USA vs. Czech     |a.m.             |NHL.com     |
|             |Republic          |5:30 p.m./11:30  |            |
|             |                  |a.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Fri., Dec. 27|Slovakia vs.      |3:00 p.m./9:00   |            |
|             |Germany           |a.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Sat., Dec. 28|USA vs. Slovakia  |1:30 p.m./7:30   |NHL.com     |
|             |Canada vs. Czech  |a.m.             |            |
|             |Republic          |5:30 p.m./11:30  |            |
|             |                  |a.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Sun., Dec. 29|USA vs. Germany   |3:00 p.m./9:00   |NHL.com     |
|             |                  |a.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Mon., Dec. 30|Germany vs. Czech |1:30 p.m./7:30   |None        |
|             |Republic          |a.m.             |            |
|             |Canada vs.        |5:30 p.m./11:30  |            |
|             |Slovakia          |a.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Tues., Dec.  |Czech Republic vs.|1:30 p.m./7:30   |            |
|31           |Slovakia          |a.m.             |NHL.com     |
|             |USA vs. Canada    |5:30 p.m./11:30  |            |
|             |                  |a.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Thurs., Jan. |Quarterfinal #1   |noon/6:00 a.m.   |TBA         |
|2            |Quarterfinal #2   |2:30 p.m./8:30   |            |
|             |Quarterfinal #3   |a.m.             |            |
|             |Quarterfinal #4   |5:00 p.m./11:00  |            |
|             |                  |a.m.             |            |
|             |                  |7:30 p.m./1:30   |            |
|             |                  |p.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Fri., Jan. 3 |Semifinal #1      |3:00 p.m./9:00   |TBA         |
|             |Semifinal #2      |a.m.             |            |
|             |                  |7:00 p.m./1:00   |            |
|             |                  |p.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|
|Sun., Jan. 5 |Bronze Medal Game |3:00 p.m./9:00   |TBA         |
|             |Gold Medal Game   |a.m.             |            |
|             |                  |7:00 p.m./1:00   |            |
|             |                  |p.m.             |            |
|-------------+------------------+-----------------+------------|\

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