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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David Poile, Pete Weber hospitalized; Niklas Backstrom won't dress tonight; Why was Chad Rau traded?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 6, 2014 - 4:28 PM

Very eventful morning down at Xcel Energy Center. Paramedics actually had to come out there twice, both Nashville related.

Pete Weber, the legendary NHL play-by-play man and only TV voice in Predators history, had a heart attack this morning and was taken to a local hospital from the arena.

Weber underwent a heart procedure and immediately felt the pressure leave his heart. I just visited him and thank God, he is resting comfortably in ICU. As I jokingly told him, I was worried I caused this because I did his radio show in Nashville last night.

Pete is as good a person as there is. I got to spend a weekend last June with he and his lovely wife, Claudia, at the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association conference in Salsbury, N.C. It was an awesome time, and Claudia is on her way to St. Paul now. Weber will remain in St. Paul through the weekend.

Weber thanks the doctors, paramedics and his ICU nurses.

"They did everything they could to calm me. I was more scared than anything," said Weber. "I thank everybody for their well wishes."

The second incident had to do with a scary scene in which GM David Poile, while standing in the tunnel between the visitor’s locker room and the bench, was struck by a deflected puck in the face.

He was immediately cut open and hit the deck. Nashville’s training staff and both Wild athletic therapists, Don Fuller and John Worley, treated Poile as paramedics were called.

Poile, under his own power, slowly walked himself from the trainer’s table to a stretcher so he could be taken by ambulance to local hospital for an examination. He looked groggy, had cotton in his nose and a puffed-up eye. He will remain there overnight for evaluation and observation. He took a lot of stitches, I'm told, and they're worried about a concussion and other facial damage. Remember, he is the U.S. GM too for the Olympics and is supposed to fly to Sochi on Sunday, so we'll see if that can happen.

"He's in the hockey world. He'll be ready to rock," Preds forward Eric Nystrom said.

According to a few Predators players, Shea Weber and Roman Josi were passing from board to board and a puck skipped on the ice, deflected off Josi’s blade and ricocheted into an unsuspecting Poile.

“Just looking at it, it was above the eye, so hopefully there’s no damage to the eye,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s the first thing you worry about, but it was a rocket that came across. That’s the danger of being in that tunnel. That’s why I always get nervous when you have kids or have staff from upstairs that want to stand in the tunnel. It seems like it’s real easy and safe, but it’s not. It was a hard, rocket pass that came across that skipped and hit him pretty flush, so we hope that everything’s fine there.”

Wild players are wearing white tonight. Polar Vertex Night, I guess.

Darcy Kuemper vs. Carter Hutton tonight.

Johan Gustafsson has been recalled to back up Kuemper because Niklas Backstrom is day-to-day with the same abdominal soreness that didn’t allow him to start in Los Angeles on Jan. 7 and travel to Dallas on Jan. 21.

The Wild has lucked out lately because there have been no back-to-backs since before the Christmas break. There are five six after the Olympic break, so GM Chuck Fletcher may have to address the goaltending issue if Josh Harding won’t be able to return and Backstrom is going to be plagued by this nagging injury the rest of the way.

The hope from the team is that the Olympic break will be able to help Backstrom get to 100 percent.

If the Wild is comfortable going with Kuemper the rest of the way as No. 1 – and he’s given them every reason to think he can continue to get the workload – I wonder if Fletcher still looks to acquire an experienced goalie on a two-way contract as insurance. It’d be hard to get one on a one-way contract because if all of a sudden Backstrom is OK and Harding can come back, suddenly you’re overrun with goalies on a max 23-man roster.

This is nothing new to the Wild. The Wild’s goaltending situation has been, for lack of a better term, day-to-day all year starting with Backstrom straining his knee in Nashville the third game of the season.

“I know last year was a condensed schedule, but this year has felt every bit the same,” said Yeo, and he’s right because of the Olympics (Wild played 48 games in 99 days last year; this year it played the same amount of games in a league-low 101 days if I remember correctly). “Even though [Backstrom] hasn’t been the starting goalie, there’s also for that backup goalie a heavy workload. He’s got to make sure his game’s staying sharp in practice.”

So Yeo hopes the Olympics give him the rest he needs to get healthy because “we’re going to need him. With the amount of back-to-back games and amount of games we’re playing in a short period of time and just even sometimes to put a veteran guy in and a guy that’s been in those type of situations, certainly we’re going to need him.”

The Wild closes the Olympic break before most teams in the league and some teams start earlier than the Wild. The Wild also plays three games in the first nine days after the break, so the games in hand teams have on the Wild? They’ll catch up. That’s why tonight’s game is so important. The Wild needs the two points to continue to have a cushion on the teams behind them.

Nashville has a game at home against Anaheim on Saturday, so the Preds shouldn’t look past tonight’s game. The danger for the Wild is they could with five guys (maybe four if Mikko Koivu is ruled out) going to the Olympics and most every other player headed to the beach Friday and Saturday.

The Preds are playing well and have pushed themselves back into the playoff hunt, so Yeo expects Nashville’s best tonight and warned the Wild to beware of looking past tonight for the break.

After tonight, Yeo said he’ll tell the players to turn off their brains and forget about hockey for a little while. In fact, the Wild’s strength coach, Kirk Olson, will tell players to not do anything exercise-wise for four days and then give them a program to start up again before the players must report back for practice Feb. 19 at 2 p.m.

Players have all been weighed in so they have a baseline for what they should be once they report again. The team will then have a mini-training camp before its schedule resumes Feb. 27 in Edmonton.

But tonight, Yeo said, “We cannot have any letdowns.”

What else? Stephane Veilleux has cleared waivers and been assigned to Iowa. Marco Scandella is walking well on his sprained right knee and says he got lucky.

Also, I threw the Chad Rau trade on the blog yesterday and didn’t give you any foundation for understanding it because it was so minor. After getting a Twitter freak out, I realize now I probably should have explained the move.

First of all, minor-league trades are made every day in the NHL. Heck, Iowa made two yesterday. The only reason why this got a press release here in Minnesota is because Rau is on an NHL deal.

This is a trade that will never impact the Wild. The Wild runs two organizations and this was a move for Iowa.

Rau has been scratched more than a dozen times this year because Iowa has been forced to rotate veterans. Veterans are deemed to be any player that has more than 260 pro games I believe. You can only dress six in the AHL. Iowa has seven, so every night, one of the vets has to be scratched. That’s why David Steckel wanted out at the start of the year. Back then, Iowa had eight and two were scratched per night.

So, this was not fair to Rau, this wasn’t fair to Iowa. It’s a stupid rule when every night one “vet” has to see four ECHLers who aren’t as good as him play in Iowa’s lineup because one of them are not allowed to play.

Rau hasn’t been called up in two years. It’s not his fault the Wild is deeper today than it was when he got callups a few years ago and has players like Granlund, Niederreiter, Coyle, Zucker, Haula above him in the depth chart.

So in order to give Rau a chance to play every day and get a contract next year, the Wild traded him. They were doing him a favor. This was no slight of a beloved hometown boy, as some of my Twitter followers seemed to take it as.

This was a minor-league trade, so chillax. Like I said, I realize now I should have given you the context of the trade yesterday.

That’s it for me. I’ll be on Fox Sports North during tonight’s pregame show and first intermission.

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