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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Josh Harding, Ilya Bryzgalov, John Curry all on the ice in Chicago

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: May 2, 2014 - 2:32 PM

Wild and Blackhawks, Game 1, tonight, United Center. The game is on NBC Sports Network, but Fox Sports North will have an hour pregame show and a postgame show.

Afternoon from the Windy City, where the Wild plays its first second-round game in 11 years tonight. The Wild is 1-6 all-time in Game 1s (five overtimes), having lost six Game 1s in a row since its first one.

Ilya Bryzgalov with John Curry serving as backup vs. Corey Crawford.

Josh Harding, who actually began practicing again with the Wild in Chicago earlier this month, was on the ice in gear today for the first time with the big club in a few weeks. Darcy Kuemper is in an undisclosed location with an undisclosed upper-body injury “getting checked out,” coach Mike Yeo said.

On Harding skating, Yeo said, “Just more than anything else, let's just get him on the ice. This is an extreme longshot to think he would have a chance to play in this series. Get him on the ice and get him back to being part of the group and helping out a little bit with practice. Obviously this time of year, the goalie playing a lot of games isn't going to see a lot of time in practice. It's nice to have three goalies.

“For me I'm not even considering it right now. If there's an absolute emergency or there's a desperate situation we find ourselves in we'll be prepared for that. We're not getting him on the ice to get ready to play a game, let's put it that way.”

Yeah, and Matt Duchene wasn’t going to play in the last series, coach Patrick Roy said. He played the final two games. Last year, Harding didn’t start for two months and then had to start Game 1 of the playoffs. So, stranger things have happened. My gut says at some point in this series, Harding rappels down from the rafters – so to speak.

Curry will back up tonight. He said he has to be ready for anything. In Game 7, he was watching from a suite. When he saw Kuemper get hurt, he immediately went down to the locker room and suited up. He was on the bench as Bryzgalov’s backup when Nino Niederreiter scored, so 30 minutes or so after watching the game in a suit, Curry was on the ice celebrating and in a handshake line.

Go figure.

“Very cool,” Curry said of being part of it. “Earlier in the game, I was talking to Mike Rupp about Kuemps [and how good he was doing] and he said, ‘It’s amazing how quick things change for a goalie.’ A period, later, I’m dressed on the bench.”

I talked to Ryan Suter about the conversation he had with Kuemper in the second and third periods the other night before he left the game. Remember, Duchene knocked Kuemper down and his head hit Suter in the leg.

I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s paper.

A taste: “Right away in the second period, I thought he was hurt. I asked him, ‘You alright?’ And he didn’t say anything so I said, ‘Well, you’re not coming out. You’re fine, you’re tough, you’re playing. I probably shouldn’t have said that,” Suter said, laughing.

Charlie Coyle has 15 stitches going from the right side of his lip down to the chin courtesy of Suter’s deflected shot in Game 7.  Basically, Suter was an absolute menace the other night to his teammates!!! (Well, except for the defensive play of the Wild’s season to almost certainly save a goal shortly before Niederreiter’s winner).

“I can’t even smile,” he said, … smiling.

He can talk (with a bit of a lisp), can eat, can drink. If he got one on the left side, it would look like a Fu Manchu.

“It was a freak accident. Luckily it tipped. I couldn’t imagine getting it straight on,” Coyle said. “Most [stitches] I’ve ever had. Well worth it. No teeth, thank God. I’m totally engaged now.”

What else?

No lineup changes for the Wild, I don’t think. Dany Heatley is on the first power-play unit tonight.

Yeo: “For me, this is the most Dany Heatley that we've seen all year. There's been parts - there was a stretch in the middle part of the year where we lost some guys. We really put him in a situation to take advantage of and he did. Then the trade deadline, there were different things that happened that pushed him down. He's just handled things so well all year. It's been real impressive to watch. I've had experience with older players and they find themselves out of the lineup, and I can honestly say that I've never worked with someone who has handled it the way he has as far as No. 1 not being a distraction and making sure he's supportive for his teammates but more importantly making sure he stays on top of things and works and is ready for this opportunity. He's moving real well right now, he's a guy with experience, he's a guy who plays strong on the puck, obviously has a chance to create some offense when he's out there.”

What was the toughest part of being scratched?

“Watching,” Heatley said. “The three hours of the game is the worst part of the day. You come to the rink and can do your work, be around the guys, still kinda go through the afternoon routine and not coming at four or five o'clock to the rink is the toughest part.”

I’ve got funny stuff from Kyle Brodziak on his celebration on the Niederreiter goal. Basically, he was the only one in the arena who knew the puck was in and starting jumping up and down. You can hear him screaming on the video.

His buddies made fun of his “vertical.”

More on that in tomorrow’s paper.

I’ll be on Barreiro at 3:15 and Comcast Chicago TV at 5.

If you didn't see the postgame locker room celebration produced by the Wild from Game 7, check this link

Also,

Talk later.

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San Diego - LP: J. Lane 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: E. Santana 2
Washington - LP: R. Soriano 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: M. Dunn 7
Philadelphia - LP: A. Burnett 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 7
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 2
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 14 FINAL
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1
Arizona - WP: O. Perez 2 FINAL
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Chicago Cubs - WP: T. Wada 4
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NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
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