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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Zach Parise named NHL's First Star of the Week; Talking Thomas Vanek

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: February 3, 2014 - 12:32 PM

Afternoon from the X, where the Wild's practicing in advance of its game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It'll be a tough one: Lightning is darn good and the first game back from a long road trip is often a tough one.

Jared Spurgeon is again practicing today and could return. Mikko Koivu is not practicing, is out Tuesday and I'd say doubtful for Thursday. The big question is whether he partakes in the Olympics. As I wrote here, GM Chuck Fletcher doesn't want him playing if he's still injured. Fletcher said he will see the doctors again this week.

Justin Fontaine is the lone guy not practicing today. I saw him limping after the game at Colorado on Thursday, so maybe this is related. Update after practice.

Thomas Vanek reportedly turned down a contract extension with the Islanders and will be traded before the March 5 deadline. Shocker.

Again, my guess has always been the Wild waits until free agency to pursue Vanek. The price for him as a rental will be huge, so why give up a boatload of assets for Vanek when you can sign him as a free agent? Again, the Wild, if it makes the playoffs, is all but locked to get a wildcard spot (Wild's unlikely to catch St. Louis, Chicago or Colorado), meaning it's all but locked to play St. Louis or Anaheim in the first round. Would you want the Wild to trade a first-round pick and a prospect or two for Vanek when your fate is a first round with those teams and he almost certainly will be available four months from now anyway?

Doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

I don't doubt the Wild would like add a rental winger/scorer before the deadline, but the price for Vanek will be high. I'd think L.A. is a possibility. The Kings cannot score. They must add a scorer before the deadline.

Zach Parise was named the NHL's First Star of the Week. He had eight points in three games, including a 3- and 4-point game against Anaheim (winning goal) and Colorado, respectively.

Former Gopher Phil Kessel was Second Star, while the Wild played a role in helping Calgary's Mikael Backlund get Third Star.

FIRST STAR— ZACH PARISE, LW, MINNESOTA WILD

        Parise led the NHL with eight points (3-5--8) last week as the Wild
(29-21-7) went 1-1-1 in three road contests. Parise began the week by tallying the game-winning goal plus two assists in a 4-2 win at Anaheim Jan. 28, handing the Ducks their second regulation loss in 25 home starts.
He recorded a season-high four points (2-2--4) and nine shots in a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Jan. 30 and notched an assist in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames Feb. 1. Parise also was named captain of the
2014 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team on Jan. 31. The 29-year-old Minneapolis native, who served as an alternate captain for the silver medal-winning U.S. team at Vancouver in 2010, has recorded 35 points
(18-17--35) in 42 games with the Wild this season.

SECOND STAR –- PHIL KESSEL, RW, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

        Kessel recorded seven points (3-4--7) last week, helping the Maple Leafs (30-21-6) climb to third place in the Atlantic Division with three consecutive victories. He earned an assist on the game-winning goal in a
3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Jan. 28, recorded two assists in a 6-3 victory over the Florida Panthers Jan. 30 and tallied his fifth career hat trick and one assist in a 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators Feb. 1. The 26-year-old Madison, Wisc. native, who will represent the United States at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games later this month, leads the Maple Leafs in scoring and is fourth in the League overall with 61 points (30-31--61) in
57 games. His 30 goals rank second in the League to Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (39).

THIRD STAR – MIKAEL BACKLUND, C, CALGARY FLAMES

        Backlund recorded six points (4-2--6) last week, highlighted by multiple points in each of his three appearances, as the Flames (21-27-7) closed out their first 5-0-0 homestand since Feb. 7-15, 1997. Backlund began the week by notching two goals, one shorthanded, in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Jan. 28. He tallied two assists in a
4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks Jan. 30 and he closed the week by recording a shorthanded tally as well as the overtime winner in a 4-3 decision over the Minnesota Wild Feb. 1. The 24-year-old Vasteras, Sweden native increased his season scoring total to 13-14--27 in 54 games.

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