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 begins life for a bit without Zach Parise; Why the Wild called up Stephane Veilleux

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: December 27, 2013 - 6:35 PM

Wild and Winnipeg Jets tonight in the frozen tundra of Manitoba. I did my almost-midseason analysis in today’s newspaper. That can be found at this link.

The Wild got on an 8:30 a.m. flight and headed north without Zach Parise. Coach Mike Yeo called Parise day-to-day.

I think day-to-day could potentially be a few weeks without its first-line left wing. Parise has clearly been hampered on the ice and in pain off of it, and my guess is he probably did further damage to the foot. Last time, it was recommended he miss two to three weeks. He missed one game.

So it doesn’t linger, my guess is he’ll be kept off the ice for a little bit here so he can heal up, and that part Yeo did admit to this morning.

“If he’s not a game player, I want to keep him off the ice completely and give him a good chance to heal,” Yeo said.

More on this below.

Josh Harding is on the trip, but he will not dress tonight. Niklas Backstrom will make his fourth straight start. He gave up 12 goals on the previous road trip and 19 in his past five starts, although it’s hard to blame him for any of the three goals in Philly and the first three in New York and he’s gotten zero goal support.

His last win was last month in Winnipeg when the Wild was completely outplayed and he stole them a shootout win. That was his first skate back from a concussion, but Harding got hurt in warmups.

Yeo didn’t know how long Harding will need on the ice before he can return. I’m getting New Year’s Eve vs. St. Louis. I can’t see Sunday’s Islanders game after only one practice. Yeo felt Harding looked good this morning. Harding was not made available to the media by the team.

Defenseman Clayton Stoner will miss at least a few days, Yeo said, with a lower-body injury. Nate Prosser will skate his second straight game next to Keith Ballard, who has struggled the past two games. Although, so has Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon.

The lines:

Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle

Dany Heatley-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Justin Fontaine

Stephane Veilleux-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

Mike Rupp is the lone scratch. Johan Gustafsson will back up Backstrom.

This was the Wild and Jets’ first skate in the past three days. Pominville said players were rusty and it may take a few shifts to get the timing back.

“We threw a couple extra drills in there to try to get rid of some of the sloppiness,” Yeo said. “You could see early, we weren’t passing a lot of flat pucks. But as practice wore on, we started to work out some of the kinks.”

Players like Pominville and Heatley said others must step up now without Parise. I’ll have those quotes in the gameday notebook in Saturday’s paper.

“When we’re at our strongest, when we’re playing at our best as a team, we’re playing our team game, we’re able to overcome these individual injuries,” Yeo said. “We’ve had some tough ones as far as injuries go, but we’ve battled through it for the most part.”

Yeo is referring to Coyle’s sprained knee, Jonas Brodin’s broken cheekbone, Granlund’s concussion, Parise playing through a bum foot for a month, three issues with Backstrom (knee, concussion, illness) and Harding’s MS-related absence and two leg issues this season.

“It’s a tough challenge when you lose a guy like Zach,” Yeo said. “For a team that hasn’t been scoring a lot of goals, we’re losing a guy that’s a threat every time he’s on the ice. Somebody’s going to have to pick up the slack, but more importantly, we have to do it as a group.”

My concern is during the 1-0-2 portion of the first three games of this seven of eight away from St. Paul, we still saw glimpses of the Wild’s game and quality play. The last three before the break, we saw a disjointed, convoluted, terribly-playing hockey team. I mean, just look at some of the D like Scandella and Spurgeon who have been so good this season on that last road trip.

How do you get that back?

“You’re focused on not scoring goals and you start losing focus on some of the things that you need to be doing,” Yeo said, adding again that the break came at a good time. “Let’s reset here, let’s use this break, let’s clear our minds and get back to who we are.

“Foundation is key for us. Our foundation has never really been about goal scoring. When we were winning a lot of games, we weren’t winning a lot of 6-5 games. I don’t think our players have forgotten how to score goals. We’re not doing it right now. Along the way, we’re so focused on that, we’re losing focus on some of the things that we need to be doing. We’re giving up way too many goals. That’s not us. That’s not who we are, that’s not how we play the game. We have to get back to our foundation.”

I asked Yeo why the Wild replaced a first-line left winger with a fourth-line plumber like Veilleux rather than a more offensive-minded Iowa player like Jason Zucker, Erik Haula or Brett Bulmer (even though I already knew the answer).

Yeo: “We need to get guys into roles. It’s about getting back to our game. That’s what we need right now. We’ve had skilled guys playing on the fourth line and checkers playing on the first line. Let’s get back to having roles, identities and everybody being on the same page and getting us going in the right direction. Our first, foremost thought has to be, ‘let’s start rebuilding our game, let’s get back to who we are.’”

As we’ve seen with the Minnesota-Iowa yo-yo though, that’s what Yeo says today. We’ll see if that continues or a more skilled player ends up back here in a few days. GM Chuck Fletcher said the other day regarding Zucker that he feels badly every time he calls him up because he’s not playing overly well down there, and until he plays a string of good games down there, he really needs to stay there because otherwise he’s got no shot to play well up here.

We’ll see if that changes if the Wild gets more desperate. Same thing with Haula and Bulmer. I think the Wild wants to stop the yo-yo and keep those guys consistently in Iowa so they can develop rather than being mostly unproductive in the NHL. We will see again if the Wild’s need changes that desire in the coming days.

Yeo is loading up the first unit tonight with Granlund-Koivu-Coyle, Pominville and Ryan Suter and has a second unit of … Heatley-Brodziak-Fontaine, Ballard-Spurgeon. On the fly (non-faceoff), it appears Niederreiter takes Brodziak’s spot.

“The mentality of the second group should be to get as many pucks to the net as we can,” said Yeo, who added he’s going with Granlund on the top unit because he’s playing at such a high level right now.

The NHL holiday roster freeze expires at midnight. We'll see if Fletcher is able to do anything to get the attention of this slumping team.

Talk tonight. I’ll be on TSN 1290 in Winnipeg at 5:30 p.m.


Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 7:30 PM
New York 108 FINAL
Toronto 118
Memphis 91 FINAL
Cleveland 105
Boston 84 FINAL
Miami 100
Detroit 105 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
LA Lakers 101 FINAL
Sacramento 108
Philadelphia 96 FINAL
Orlando 88
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Washington 92
Indiana 100 FINAL
Minnesota 96
New Orleans 101 FINAL
Oklahoma City 99
Colorado 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Dallas 6 FINAL(SO)
Edmonton 5
Buffalo 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 1
Toronto 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 3
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
Samford 64
Coker 52 FINAL
South Carolina 78
Boston College 71
Northern Ariz 66 FINAL
Hampton 75
SD Christian 61 FINAL
San Diego 71
UC Irvine 55 FINAL
Bradley 47
Troy 65 FINAL
Nicholls 64
Seton Hall 47 FINAL
Georgia 65
Appalachian St 59 FINAL
Alabama 60
North Dakota St 52 FINAL
Kent State 53
San Jose St 53 FINAL
Washington St 82
Alcorn State 45 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
Sacramento St 47 FINAL
Seattle 66
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 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
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Indiana State 73 FINAL
St Johns 67
Southern U 49 FINAL
Florida 78
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
(19) Oklahoma St 66 FINAL
USC 62
Houston 54 FINAL
Texas Tech 60
Ark-Little Rock 66 FINAL
Tulsa 59
Dayton 71 FINAL
Vanderbilt 67
Northern Ariz 37 FINAL
New Mexico 56
UNC-Asheville 60 FINAL
USC Upstate 67
North Dakota 81 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Western Ill 57 FINAL
Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
(6) North Carolina 85
Ball State 59 FINAL
Western Ky 84
(8) Kentucky 68 FINAL
(13) Duke 89
New Orleans 58 FINAL
Alabama 87
Chicago State 47 FINAL
Milwaukee 69
Bowling Green 61 FINAL
Bradley 47
Ill-Springfield 56 FINAL
SE Missouri St 73
Northern Ill 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
Central Michigan 64 FINAL
Minnesota 67
Western Carolina 45 FINAL
North Florida 62
Wyoming 71 FINAL
Colorado 76
Portland 58 FINAL
Boise State 94
Cal Poly 63 FINAL
Colorado State 65
No Dakota State 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
Albany 71 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 49
Oklahoma 64 FINAL
Arkansas 71
Idaho State 63 FINAL
Seattle 55
(18) Michigan State 89 FINAL
(19) Syracuse 76
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Arizona State 88
TX-Arlington 46 FINAL
North Texas 38
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Oregon 59
St Francis-PA 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 72
CS-Bakersfield 74
(2) Connecticut 86
(10) Louisville 70 FINAL
(24) California 57
Howard 53 FINAL
Virginia 74
Miami-Ohio 42 FINAL
(21) Miss State 68
Illinois-Chicago 55 FINAL
Old Dominion 61
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