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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For one night, Wild's able to breathe easier after a complete win against the Buffalo Sabres

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 2, 2014 - 11:38 PM

It’s easy to slight a team mired in a six-game losing streak and 5-12-1 slide easily beating the worst team in the NHL.

“What’s it even mean?” was a question I received a number of times on Twitter and email tonight. In fact, I got so many cynical tweets, you all have futures in sports writing because we ink-stained wretches are nothing if not cynical.

But, hey, you play the opponents as they’re slated, and Thursday at the X, the lowest-scoring team and worst road team in the NHL arrived to face the Wild.

The Wild beat the Sabres in every way possible, so hey, it’s a start.

Does it save the season, save jobs, solve all problems, catapult the Wild back in the playoff race?


But a turnaround must start with a victory, and maybe tonight’s 4-1 win was it. Maybe.

We will find out starting with the next big test coming Saturday – reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin, the great Joel Ward and the Washington Capitals.

Tonight, the Wild needed a victory, got a complete game from the roster, contribution from all four lines, six defensemen and a goaltender named Niklas Backstrom, who had his first shutout of the season spoiled with 1:12 left when Matt Ellis thought it would be cool to score on a delayed penalty.

Where would the Wild be without former Sabres captain Jason Pominville, who scored his team-leading 18th goal and second consecutive winning goal against his ex-mates.

Marco Scandella was 1:12 away from his third winning goal out of six career goals, Jason Zucker scored a big goal to turn a 2-0 lead into a more breathable 3-0 lead (although, we thought that against the Islanders, too) and Kyle Brodziak saw his 30-game goal drought snapped when referee Chris Lee graciously awarded him a goal that he won’t even get a credited shot for.

Brodziak was hauled down en route to a potential empty-netter. Coach Mike Yeo had a funny line about it in his postgame, and you can read the gamer on www.startribune.com/wild for that quote and more.

Yeo was all smiles on the bench late in the game and cracked some jokes in the postgame. Again, all’s not safe for the coach yet, there were good signs on the ice the past two games as the Wild started to get back to the identity of being a defensively-solid team.

For the second game in a row, the coaches split Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin and  Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, and the Suter-Spurgeon and Scandella-Brodin pairs were awesome.

Nate Prosser had a solid game, as did Clayton Stoner, who returned from a lower-body injury. Stoner had five hits and brought a much-needed physical element.

“After watching a couple games from the press box, it was a little bit evident that we were lacking a little bit of physicality, emotion,” Stoner said. “Tonight, right through the lineup, we played with a lot of emotion.”

The Wild finally played a good game in front of Backstrom and he was able to play with a lead for a change after the Wild broke a 0-0 tie with three second-period goals. Remember, it was 0-0 after one New Year’s Eve against St. Louis and the Wild broke first.

It didn’t tonight.

Nobody was celebrating after the game. There were happy faces, but everybody knows the Wild’s accomplished nothing yet. It’s got a lot of work to do, but maybe tonight’s win will instill some confidence again into the locker room and provide something to build off.

“If we bring that type of effort, we’re going to win a lot more games,” Pominville said. “It’s two in a row where we battled hard, we didn’t give up much. … If you look at it, we didn’t do anything special, but we did a lot of good things right, all the little details right, and it led to us outshooting them and for the most part outplaying them.”

That’s it for me. I talked to GM Chuck Fletcher tonight and he explained the Zenon Konopka waiver move as the Wild felt its top-four centers now will be Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Brodziak. If the Wild needs, it can move Torrey Mitchell, who was great tonight by the way, to center, or look to Iowa, where it has Erik Haula and Jake Dowell.

Fletcher also indicated that he continues to try to “make something happen” in terms of a trade, so clearing a roster spot by having Konopka claimed or sending him to Iowa would help in that because eventually Zach Parise will taking one roster spot again.

Konopka will either be claimed or clear at 11 a.m. Friday. Follow me on Twitter for that news.

Talk to you after practice Friday.


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 - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
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 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 4th Qtr 4:00
Carolina 13
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
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 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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