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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Lots of great efforts as Wild bounces back and shuts out Nashville

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 12, 2014 - 9:59 PM

The Wild won for the fifth time in six games and third in a row on the road tonight with a 4-0 victory over the Nashville Predators.

Real good game for the Wild, which limited the Predators to very few legit scoring chances and helped Darcy Kuemper to his first career shutout. Kuemper made 23 saves for his third career win, and he had to be particularly good in the second.

The Wild clamped down defensively, but it did spend some extended shifts in its own end and went the final 13:44 of the period without a shot. But even then, the Wild had a 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Dany Heatley and Jason Zucker and it always felt like the Wild had the game in pretty good control. Still, Kuemper was good controlling rebounds and was real good playing the puck and helping out his defensemen.

Good bounceback win for the Wild, which felt it deserved better than zero points in allowed 18 shots during a 4-2 loss less than 24 hours earlier to Colorado.

The Heatley-Charlie Coyle-Zucker line was great again, with Coyle assisting on both goals by his linemates. He had a funny anecdote about Heatley in the gamer, so read that at www.startribune.com/wild.

“Those three guys, the last two games have been by far their best without the puck,” coach Mike Yeo said.

All the goals by them have come off rushes and Yeo noted it could not happen if not for being good defensively, quick to transition and spending less time in the defensive zone.

Ryan Suter, the ex-Pred, was an absolute stud tonight. He had one assist in 28:42 of ice time and was plus-2 and just was so strong in his own end and started the transition of both goals by Heatley and Zucker. Before the Heatley winning goal, he forced the turnover and led the rush. Before the Zucker goal, he was a defensive-zone battle before going for a line change.

Just a great game for a guy that you know couldn’t have been too happy for the turnover that led to Ryan O’Reilly’s winner the night before.

Yeo went on and on about the leadership on this team with guys like Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise hurt. He went down the list of players and said there’s a lot of good things going on behind the scenes that we never see, like Jason Pominville not showing up on the score sheet tonight, but “you’re not there to see how he is on the bench and the way he goes out shift after shift. Sutes, same thing, …” and so on and so on.

The Wild opens up a three-game homestand Tuesday against Ottawa. Yeo already said Kuemper will start.

“We just want to keep it going,” Yeo said. “Every game we have a lot of things that we need to do right to have the right outcome right now [because of all the injuries].”

Matt Cooke and Marco Scandella also scored third-period goals tonight. Scandella was great again. So was Nate Prosser, who has stepped in admirably ever since Jared Spurgeon injured his foot.

Nino Niederreiter has eight points in the past eight games. Mikael Granlund had an assist and won 9 of 16 faceoffs. Erik Haula had four shots to lead the team. Coyle was awesome. Clayton Stoner was physical with three hits. The Wild blocked 21 shots. The Wild has given up two goals in the past three road games. Heatley scored his 63rd career winning goal and first this season.

I wrote a good amount on Heatley in the gamer and will come back with a pretty good story on the relationship young forwards Coyle, Granlund, Niederreiter and Zucker have with Andrew Brunette, Darby Hendrickson and Darryl Sydor.

That will be in Tuesday’s paper. The Wild has an off-day Monday, so barring news, no blog.

Remember, I’ll be doing our third Star Tribune Chalk Talk with Wes Walz prior to Tuesday’s game against Ottawa. 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).

I’ll also be on KFAN on Monday at 11:40 a.m. and Tuesday at 9:55 a.m.

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