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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Mike Yeo on Game 6: Wild's survival instincts stronger than its killer instinct

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild pregame skate Updated: May 13, 2014 - 1:14 PM

The Wild and Chicago Blackhawks play Game 6 tonight at Xcel Energy Center (8 p.m., CNBC).

A Wild win, and Game 7 at 7 p.m. Thursday in Chicago. A Blackhawks win, and they advance to play the winner of Anaheim-Los Angeles (Ducks are up 3-2). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Wild's looking to become the first NHL team to force consecutive Game 7s in one postseason without series lead since the 1987 Isles.

I’ll be on Fox Sports North tonight at 7:20.

The Wild has rallied from 0-2 deficits in each of the past two series only to lose Game 5. Last round, it forced a Game 7 and eventually eliminated Colorado.

“Our survival instincts have been much stronger than our killer instincts,” coach Mike Yeo said this morning. “Certainly it will be tested again tonight.”

Nobody can question Chicago’s killer instincts. The Blackhawks never want to take their chances in Game 7.

According to the Chicago Sun Times’ Mark Potash, they are 7-0 in Game 6 clinchers, including a 5-0 mark on the road.

In Game 6 against Colorado, Zach Parise had two goals and two assists.

“Just knowing that we’ve been here,” Parise said. “I think there’s a lot of similarities between the two series. The games that we’ve lost we feel like we may not have played great, but we’ve had a chance to win. I’m sure they’re saying the same things about the games here. We’ve played pretty well throughout and that was the same as last series. I think we feel good about it because we’re still pretty confident in here.”

The Wild is 5-0 at home this postseason, outscoring Chicago and Colorado 16-5, including 4-0 and 4-2 against the Blackhawks.

In the seven Game 6 clinchers according to Potash, Kane has seven goals, 12 points and is plus-6. Toews has five goals, 11 points and is plus-5.

Don't expect a big motivational speeck from Joel Quenneville tonight: "I'm not a very frilly guy with the motivational speeches. I might have tried one of those motivational speeches, and I probably blew it."

Two lineup changes for the Wild tonight:

Keith Ballard will replace Nate Prosser after missing Game 5 following the Brandon Bollig hit from behind. Darcy Kuemper will back up Ilya Bryzgalov instead of John Curry.

As for the Hawks:

Ryan Suter missed the morning skate because he had a dentist appointment, according to Yeo.

“Scheduled cleaning,” Yeo said, smiling. “So that’s why he was not there.”

Frankly, I don’t think he was kidding.

On Kuemper backing up, Yeo said, “It’s been kind of coming about for the last couple days. It’s tough between Hards and Johnny Curry and Kuemps, obviously we make sure that Bryz gets what he needs every morning, and we don’t have a ton of quality practice time right now, so when you have three guys pretty much sharing one net, it’s kind of difficult for any of those guys to get the workload that he needs. But he had a real good practice yesterday, he felt really good, so this has been coming for a couple days and happy to have him back.

Matt Moulson skated during today’s skate but won’t play. He has a lower-body injury, but like I said yesterday, who do you put him in for?

“He's close,” Yeo said. “I think it was important for him to have a good skate today and hopefully we can take care of business and make a decision based on the next game. Obviously we've got to take care of tonight, first.”

On tonight’s must-win, Yeo said, “I'm excited. I would say that there's pressure on both teams, and if you don't embrace that, then there's something wrong. You don't coach or you don't play to play an exhibition game or Game 23 of the regular season. You do all that stuff to get yourself to this point. These are the games you dream of and, with that, we all have got to find a way to be at our best tonight and embrace that challenge. It's going to be a great one. They're going to play really well and, with that, we should make sure that we go all-in with our game. We can't play with any fear. We have to make sure that we're not afraid of anything, that we might lose. The only thing that should be entering our thought process is what's a possibility of being gained.”

Ballard is excited to be back.

I feel fine. I felt fine for a couple days. I think we were being fairly cautious that night. By the time I got done seeing the doctors, it was in the third period. We were trying to be pretty smart about it. There was no chance that I would play if I had symptoms. I'd been through that before, been down that road a couple times, and the more you kind of learn about these things and the more information that's coming out, the long-term effects, they're not worth it to put yourself in that situation.”

On the awareness of concussions, Ballard said, “They've become more strict over the years and more aware of the effects of playing after without seeing a doctor and making sure there's no symptoms. They're doing their job.

“I think sometimes, you don't know how you're feeling unless you've been through it a couple times and understand the symptoms. You think, ‘ah, I don't have a headache, but I don't feel right. I'm a little bit out of it. I'm more irritable’ or whatever. There's so many different symptoms, and I've had over the years a couple concussions. I've become more aware of how I'm feeling and understanding what goes along with it.

“It's not an injury that you necessarily are in a lot of pain or anything. You get some headaches here and there. They can all vary, too. It's just more of when you know the long-term effects. I've got little kids at home. I don't want to be putting myself in a position where in 10 years I can't remember their names and can't get through a day functioning normally, so that's the scary part of these things.”

On Bollig’s two-game suspension, I don't really care that much about it. I don't think it was a good hit, but I also understand the circumstances. It's a big game, and he's trying to generate some energy. I don't think it was a smart hit, but I don't think it was some of the worst things we see out there sometimes. I think sometimes the energy of the game, the emotion and the type of player -- everybody has those players -- they're out there and trying to generate some momentum and be physical, and it was just maybe a little bit over the line.

Asked if he heard from Bollig, Ballard said, “No. Too much gets made of the whole 'did he text you? … I honestly don't care. That's what happens, right? I've hit guys, and they've been injured. I don't think it was an overly malicious kind of hit. It was probably a dumb play, but that stuff doesn't really matter to me.”

The Portland Winterhawks blew a 2-0 series lead and lost in Game 7 to Edmonton last night, meaning no Memorial Cup for Matt Dumba.

He led the WHL in plus-minus with a plus-18 and led WHL defensemen with eight goals and was tied for second among defensemen with 18 points.

Today’s the three-year anniversary of Derek Boogaard’s death in his downtown Minneapolis apartment. Keep the big guy’s family in your thoughts.

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