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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Wild's lineup news heading into tonight's game against Columbus

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 15, 2014 - 12:30 PM

Darcy Kuemper vs. Sergei Bobrovsky tonight at the X when the Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets face off at 7. The Wild looks to salvage its homestand (1-0-2) before hitting the road for three tomorrow.

I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission.

The Wild’s third D pair rotation continues. The pattern has been two games in, one off.

So Nate Prosser gets in for Keith Ballard tonight. If the pattern holds, Clayton Stoner won’t play in Boston and Ballard will.

Same Wild lines tonight that finished the Rangers game:

Parise-Granlund-Pominville

Moulson-Koivu-Niederreiter

Cooke-Brodziak-Coyle

Heatley-Haula-McCormick

Justin Fontaine will be scratched for the fifth consecutive game, and whether you agree or not, if you read Rachel Blount’s notebook today on www.startribune.com/wild, coach Mike Yeo addressed the Fontaine situation.

Very optional skate this morning for the Wild. Actually, it was a directional skate, Yeo called, it. In other words, the players the Wild wanted skating were told to skate and others were told to stay off the ice. Those were all the top-minute guys, so the top-9 forwards and top-4 defensemen were told not to skate.

Yeo said the Wild tried to get something out of Friday’s practice, but he wants players full of energy tonight.

Yeo expects tonight’s game will be similar to Thursday’s Rangers game. The Blue Jackets are playing very well. They’re 5-1-1 this month and coach Todd Richards is running four lines. Columbus’ fourth line is averaging about 12 minutes a night, and they’re a hard-checking, hard-working team.

So Yeo expects both teams will have to “fight for space.”

I asked Yeo about the Wild’s speed today. Since the March 5 trade for Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick, the Wild just doesn’t seem as fast to me. A lot has to do with the trade of Torrey Mitchell, the removal of Fontaine from the lineup, the addition of Moulson, who’s not the fastest skater, and Mikko Koivu’s return to the lineup. He’s still getting up to speed after two months off with an ankle injury.

But Yeo said there won’t be too many faster opponents than the Rangers and “we didn’t feel slow in that game.” He said at times the Wild weren’t pressuring well enough, and the coaches showed video of that. He said that was more off the forecheck and going in straight lines, but “we weren’t losing foot races.”

“I think we have a nice mix right now of size and speed. You can’t be too small, you can’t be too slow. I think we have a little bit of everything.”

Speaking of speed, injured Jason Zucker is back skating again before practices and “hopefully we start progressing him along,” Yeo said.

I think Rachel blogged yesterday, but our blog platform was down and I don’t think it ever published.

Yesterday, I asked Yeo a question I keep getting about why the Wild doesn’t maybe move Erik Haula into a third-line role and Kyle Brodziak to the fourth. Brodziak, by the way, has taken four minors in the past four games and Yeo said Brodziak has to cut that out. He’s one of the Wild’s best penalty killers, which may be part of the reason the Wild gave up power-play goals on three of those four minors by Brodziak.

As for Haula, a rookie, Yeo said, “We’ve done a pretty good job handling him. As far as his development, he’s improved, we’ve increased his role and responsibilities (like penalty killing). And we haven’t done it too quickly. We haven’t pushed him into a position where he might not be ready for. We have moved him up a couple times here and there and we will use him in this next stretch. We’ll gauge it game by game. It’s something, you’ve just got to keep earning it.”

In other words, be patient. Haula’s time will come.

Talk to you tonight. Judging by the Jackets’ skate, Fedor Tyutin will return for the first time since hurting his ankle in the Olympics. Former Wild defenseman Nick Schultz, acquired from Edmonton, looks to be the scratch. His wife and son actually came in for the game from Edmonton.

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