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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Parise stands up for Bylsma; Koivu continues to progress

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: February 24, 2014 - 3:56 PM

Zach Parise, along with fellow Olympians Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund, was given the day off today by the Wild, but the veteran winger and United States captain wanted to clarify comments he made after the Americans' loss to Finland in the bronze-medal game.

Parise was quoted as saying the Americans were "passive" and sent one guy in on the forecheck and allowed the Canadians (in the semifinals) and Finns to break out of the zone easily because of that.

It was construed by some in the media and by fans as Parise taking potshots at coach Dan Bylsma and his system.

Via email today, Parise said that wasn't the case.

“I liked his system, along with each of the other players. His system didn’t have anything to do with why we didn’t win a medal,” Parise said. "I wasn't even misquoted, someone just took a response to a different question and made it sound like I was referring to him. I was asked about how we played in a particular game and I said we were passive as a team, not playing a passive system. We seemed slow as a group that particular game. Dan did a great job coaching us and preparing us for all of the games, along with the other coaches. They put in a lot of work and it's unfortunate someone would say different."

Parise, who was pursued by the Penguins before he chose Minnesota two summers ago, said he had a good relationship with Bylsma throughout the Olympics and the months leading up to it. That included phone calls and meetings.

"He always asked for the opinion of the players on different things," Parise said in the email. "And on the ice he let us play and demanded us to work. He was always detailed in his approach and his meetings and like I said earlier we were more than prepared from a scouting standpoint for each game."

Parise spoke Sunday with Penguins GM Ray Shero, also the associate GM for the U.S. during the Olympics (became acting GM when David Poile was struck by the puck in Minnesota on Feb. 6), to clarify his comments and to assure Shero that they were not meant to take aim at Bylsma.

I think I mentioned on the previous blog, but Parise also told me in an email that his hand is fine from the Olympics, that he's actually not quite sure what happened, but it just started to hurt during the bronze-medal game.

As for the Wild, the team practiced for an hour this morning and captain Mikko Koivu continues to progress from his return from ankle surgery Jan. 6.

If the Wild had a game today, coach Mike Yeo said Koivu would be unable to play. The hope though is that he continues to progress during practices Tuesday and Wednesday and can maybe play in Edmonton and/or Vancouver Thursday and Friday.

"Individually you know when you’re ready," Koivu said. "When you know that you don’t think about it in the back of your mind, then you know for sure you’re ready to go. It’s a lot better right now than what it was last week, so that’s a good sign. Still have a couple days here before the first game. We’ll see tomorrow morning [how it feels]."

Yeo said the Wild has a bunch of meetings here to figure out what the lineup will look like if Koivu can return. He indicated the centers would be Koivu, Granlund, Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula (recalled back from Iowa), so that seems to indicate that Charlie Coyle will move back to wing.

Yeo said that potentially Parise, Granlund and Jason Pominville, a line the last four-plus games before the Olympic break, would remain intact. However, after some terrific shifts together in a win at Anaheim and an offensive explosion during a loss in Colorado, the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line combined for one goal and two assists the last three games (and the Parise goal was a power-play goal). All three players were minus-3 those three games.

But with Granlund coming back from Sochi on a high and probably the need to ease Koivu back into things, my guess is Yeo separates Parise and Koivu for the first extended stretch in their Wild career together.

I'll be on KFAN at 5:15 p.m.

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