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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Mikko Koivu to miss 17th consecutive game tonight in Vancouver

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 28, 2014 - 2:45 PM

Afternoon from heaven on Earth, Vancouver, where the Wild completes the tail end of a back-to-back tonight against the Canuckleheads.

Vancouver snapped a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a 1-0 win over St. Louis. The Wild is 12-4-2 in 2014. Since Jan. 2, the Wild ranks second in the NHL in win percentage (.722) and save percentage (.929), third in goals against (2.11), tied for third in points (26) and tied for fourth in wins (12).

Eddie Lack vs. Darcy Kuemper tonight -- just like a typical Canucks-Wild clash wink

Lack is coming off a shutout over the Blues. Kuemper will make his 14th straight start, by far a franchise record for a rookie (previous was four). Since Jan. 7, he is 9-2-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Over that stretch, he ranks tied for second among NHL goalies in wins, fourth in save percentage and sixth in goals-against average.

Ryan Kesler and young defenseman Chris Tanev returns to the Canucks' lineup tonight.

Mikko Koivu skated this morning and then said he's not playing tonight.

"Wait another day and get a good team practice on Sunday (Wild has day off Saturday because it arrives in Minnesota at 4:30 a.m. from Vancouver) and then look at it again [for Calgary on Monday]," Koivu said. "It's getting better and it's pretty much the same story it's been this whole week. It's slowly getting there and getting more comfortable on skates, but it's still not quite where I want to be, especially battles and things like that.

"It is what it is. But I think now we just got to put the emotions away and be smart and wait another day and see on Sunday, Monday where we're at."

Yeo said Mikael Granlund is fine (read last night's blog for what I'm alluding to) and that defensemen Nate Prosser and Clayton Stoner, also banged up last night, are good to go.

"Those six [defensemen] battled real hard and played a real strong game yesterday. Certainly I don't think it would hurt Marco [Scandella] to have another day of practice, another day of rest," Yeo said.

Keith Ballard returns to Vancouver for the first time since signing with Minnesota last summer. He's obviously had previous returns to Phoenix and Florida, so he shouldn't be freaking out. He's coming off one of his best games in awhile, going plus-3 last night in a 3-0 win over the Oilers.

"I think I've played pretty well for the last few weeks before the break, so it feels good getting my game back again," Ballard said. "I thought I started the season real well and had a tough stretch after I got hurt [with a concussion, then broken ribs]. So it's a good feeling when things are going your way and you're contributing."

Talk tonight.

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