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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Darcy Kuemper to start tonight vs. Nashville, which includes Jon Blum's "big return"

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 12, 2014 - 5:19 PM

Darcy Kuemper gets the start in the second of back-to-back games tonight when the Wild visits the Nashville Predators.

The Preds also played last night, losing in a shootout to the Ottawa Senators. By the way, the Predators are 0-5 in shootouts with one goal on 18 tries, believe it or not. Coach Barry Trotz indicated he planned to come back with Marek Mazanec tonight.

He’s 22 and from the Czech Republic. He’s is 8-9-4 in place of Pekka Rinne with a 2.75 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.

Kuemper will make his third start of the season. On Tuesday, he made a career-high 39 saves during a 2-1 shootout win at L.A. for his second career ‘W.’ He stopped another four in the extra, extra session.

Same lineup for the Wild tonight as in its 4-2 loss last night at home against the Colorado Avalanche.

That means Jon Blum, the Predators’ 2007 first-round pick who played 91 games for Nashville over three seasons, plays his former team for the first time and third in a row for the Wild in place of veteran Ketih Ballard.

Blum scored seven goals and 15 assists for the Predators. At the time of his recall from Iowa, Blum was tied for the AHL team’s scoring lead with 17 points in 31 games.

“The big return,” coach Mike Yeo joked, referring to how Preds fans love to hate Ryan Suter. “We’ll put him on the ice with Sutes at the same time so we won’t know who they’re booing.”

Yeo has liked Blum’s game so far, saying, “he’s played composed, he’s executed, he’s moved the puck well. It helps that Iowa plays the same system because he’s come up and he’s fit in seamlessly.”

Yeo on tonight’s game: “There’s a new challenge every day and the challenge for today is to see if we can bounce back. We went on a nice little run here (four wins in a row before Saturday’s loss). But we really have to guard ourselves to make sure that … -- quite often you have a run like that and then you have a game that maybe you felt like you deserved to win and you don’t get the result that you want and then there could be a letdown, especially with a young group.

“How do we bounce back? This is the only thing that matters to me. So what we did two, three, four games ago, it’s absolutely meaningless to me right now. It’s how do we go out and perform this game.”

I think Yeo just conveyed his message during today’s morning meeting. Yeo expects a tight-checking game against the notoriously stingy Predators.

Not much else going on. I asked Yeo about Matt Cooke, who took two costly penalties last night and has five minors in the past four games. Remember, he went the first seven games this season without a minor.

“He’s working extremely hard, but you have to make sure you’re doing it the right way,” Yeo said. “That was a penalty that was deserved last night (I assume he means the second one), but it was also a penalty out of effort. You’re working hard, but you’ve got to be doing the right things, you’ve got to make sure you’re keeping your stick on the ice and moving your feet. We want to keep the work ethic but losing the penalties.”

Remember, the game’s an early 6 p.m. start tonight and on FSN++++++++++++++++

Remember, I’ll be doing our third Star Tribune Chalk Talk with Wes Walz prior to Tuesday’s game against Ottawa, who bizarrely got to the Twin Cities today and will spend the next few days roaming around the Mall of America, I presume.

If you would like to attend the Chalk Talk and attend the game, go to www.wild.com/chalktalk.

I’ll be filling in for Paul Allen on Wednesday from 9-noon, incidentally, on KFAN (100.3-FM).

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