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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

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.


Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Buffalo 3:00 PM
San Jose
Boston 6:00 PM
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Florida 8:00 PM
Washington 9:00 PM
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 3rd Qtr 15:00
Rice 14
UAB 0 3rd Qtr 11:00
Arkansas 38
Rutgers 7 3rd Qtr 12:08
(16) Nebraska 28
Maryland 0 3rd Qtr 14:40
Wisconsin 24
Texas 0 3rd Qtr 8:30
(11) Kansas State 13
Minnesota 10 3rd Qtr 10:35
Illinois 14
Memphis 34 3rd Qtr 11:45
North Carolina 21 2nd Qtr 0:56
Virginia 21
San Jose St 10 2nd Qtr 10:35
Navy 7
Northern Ill 14 2nd Qtr 10:28
Eastern Mich 7
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Nevada 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Los Angeles 1:30 PM
D.C. 3:00 PM
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question