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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Granlund, Brodziak expected to play in Game 1 of Wild-Avs series Thursday

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 15, 2014 - 5:18 PM

The Wild, which hops on a charter Wednesday morning aimed for Denver, held an up-tempo practice here at the X on Tuesday in preparation for Game 1 of its first-round series with the Avalanche on Thursday.

If you’re on Twitter (and all the cool people are), you can follow our stringer, Michael Kelly, at @berge19, throughout the first round for Avs practice and game updates in Denver. For real-time Wild news, follow me at @russostrib.

Wild center Mikael Granlund had another real good practice today, said he felt “real good” afterward and coach Mike Yeo wasn’t playing it coy afterward.

“Obviously we want to get him in the lineup,” Yeo said.

So barring a setback at Wednesday’s practice in Denver, Granlund will return to the lineup. Kyle Brodziak is also good to go for Thursday, while injured goalie Darcy Kuemper and defenseman Keith Ballard also practiced. Ballard won’t be ready by Thursday, and since this was Kuemper’s first practice with the big group, John Curry may back up Ilya Bryzgalov on Thursday. But we’ll see.

“We’re all hopeful that that’s never called upon,” Yeo said of using his backup, before letting out a laugh. “Crazier things have happened. We saw Game 1 last year (Niklas Backstrom getting hurt in warmups).”

Josh Harding practiced with the group before the main Wild group today.

So far, so good regarding unforeseen injuries. As I was reminded on Twitter, between Backstrom’s injury in warmups last year and Nick Schultz’s appendicitis right before Game 1 of the 2008 Avs series, the Wild should be ready for anything.

Wild lines in practice today:

FORWARD LINES

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Matt Moulson-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Nino Niederreiter
Stephane Veilleux-Erik Haula-Cody McCormick
 

DEFENSE PAIRINGS

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella-Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner-Nate Prosser
 

GOALTENDERS
Ilya Bryzgalov

Darcy Kuemper
John Curry

Extra forwards: Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, Jake Dowell, Mike Rupp (suspended)

Extra defensemen: Jon Blum, Keith Ballard.

Avs lines from their practice today in Denver:

FORWARD LINES

Ryan O’Reilly-Nathan MacKinnon-P.A. Parenteau 

Gabriel Landeskog-Paul Stastny-Jamie McGinn

Max Talbot-Marc-Andre Cliché-Cody McLeod

Patrick Bordeleau-Brad Malone-Paul Carey

DEFENSE PAIRS

Nick Holden-Erik Johnson

Tyson Barrie-Nate Guenin

Andre Benoit-Stefan Elliott

GOALIES

Semyon Varlamov

J-S Giguere

Reto Berra

Coach Patrick Roy (still weird to write that) said he expects Jan Hejda to play Game 1, so if so, he’d slide likely back onto the Johnson pair and Elliott would likely come out of the lineup. Holden would likely go to Barrie’s pair and Guenin to Benoit’s pair.

Coach Roy (still weird to write that) indicated Duchene won’t be ready to play early in the series and that third-line center John Mitchell (concussion) is feeling better and should return at some point in the series. Alex Tanguay is done for the year.

These are significant injuries for Colorado. For a change, the Wild pretty much enters the playoffs with all its pieces.

(So far, no rumors of another Peter Forsberg comeback and Joe Sakic is still wearing a suit).

By the way, five of the six defensemen for Colorado listed above will be making their playoff debuts (four if Hejda plays). Hejda and Benoit have combined for eight playoff games. Seven of Colorado’s 12 forwards listed above have never played a playoff game.

So, this is one area where the Wild may have the intangible edge.

“I think it’ll help a lot,” Suter said. “Whenever you do something, the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel, just like driving your car or riding a bike. The more you do it, the better you get at it.”

As you can see above, Heatley, who has more playoff points than any Wild player (57 in 66 games), enters as an anticipated scratch.

Also, I got the lines dead-on the other day. Fontaine enters as the 13th forward. Remember, if he doesn’t play three games in the playoffs, he can become an unrestricted free agent as opposed to a restricted free agent. But, most essential is Yeo goes with the lineup he feels he has the best chance to win with, and he’s clearly picked for now the 12 forwards.

That fourth line will be used to bring momentum, that third line will be used to not only shut down, but also to help dictate from the physicality department.

Stoner’s back in for the same reason. Blum has played well, but so far, Prosser stays in on that right side of the third pair.

OK, I better get writing for the paper. Lots of preview stuff will be in the paper the next few days, and obviously, please check out Tuesday’s paper. Also, coming Thursday, a real good look at Ilya Bryzgalov. I’ve gathered a lot of good yarn. Now I just need to write it well. So, with WISH me luck. (see what I mean)

Talk to you after practice Wednesday from Denver.

Lately,

MINNESOTA WILD TO HOLD SHAVEOFF, PRESENTED BY

BIC FLEX 4 SHAVER, THIS WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, TO KICK OFF

 BEARD-A-THON EFFORTS

    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – In celebration of the great tradition of the playoff beard, the Minnesota Wild is kicking off the Minnesota Wild Beard‑a‑Thon® to benefit the Minnesota Wild Foundation and build excitement for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. This Wednesday, April 16, celebrities and one lucky Wild fan will gather at Xcel Energy Center to clean off the stubble on some notable local faces and raise money for a great cause. Fans of Wild hockey and facial hair are invited to drop by for a free lunch, a chance to win playoff tickets and revel in the shaving merriment. Fans who make a donation of $10 or more will receive an official Minnesota Wild “Fear the Beard” t-shirt (quantities limited). The Shaveoff is presented by Bic Flex 4 Shaver.

    One lucky fan will also win an autographed Wild jersey and the chance to join the celebrities for a shave as part of the “Shaveoff Sweepstakes.” To enter, fans tweet a photo showing their Wild playoff spirit to @mnwild, using the hashtag #itsplayoffseason. The contest runs now through 4:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15. Official Rules are available at http://www.wild.com/shaveoff.

Minnesota Wild Beard-a-thon®

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Wednesday, April 16

Gate 1 – Xcel Energy Center

199 W. Kellogg Blvd. – Saint Paul, MN 55102

Celebrities participating:

-  Wes Walz, Minnesota Wild

-  Dave Schwartz, KARE 11

-  Chris Hawkey, KFAN 100.3

-  Paul Fletcher, Cities 97

Info:

- Donate $10 or more to receive an official Minnesota Wild “Fear the Beard” t-shirt (quantities limited)

- Free lunch (hot dog, chips, soda) for the first 250 fans

- Register-to-win tickets for the first Wild home playoff game

- Watch celebrities get clean shaven by the barbers from St. Paul’s legendary Heimie's Haberdashery

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