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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Bouchard moves up to top line; Opening-Night festivities

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: October 12, 2010 - 2:31 PM

Don't get your hopes up with Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He's still a ways away from playing. He's still wearing the yellow, do-not-even-think-of-breathing-on-me practice jersey.

But Andrew Brunette missed today's practice with a hip flexor, so that afforded Bouchard the chance to take shifts on the top line of Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen. He looked good, too, but still no plans yet on when he'll begin taking contact in practice.

As for Brunette, I wouldn't worry. This is a guy who played virtually the entire second half of the 2008-09 season with a torn ACL and 80 games for the year, and returned to play all 82 games last season. This is a guy who's played 82 games in six of the last seven years. I'm going to go out on a limb and guarantee that Brunette's not missing the home opener because of a hip problem.

Don't know it for sure, but it's Andrew Brunette.

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky (groin) did practice today, although he left a bit early. Lines were normal in practice today. Guillaume Latendresse did take a few shifts late with Matt Cullen and Marty Havlat, but Cal Clutterbuck was mostly on that line.

Very long, teaching practice today with coach Todd Richards loudly doing instructionals.

Russo Radio tonight on 1500 ESPN at 5 p.m. I'll also be hosting the 6-8 p.m. show Wednesday night on 1500 ESPN. Lots of cool guests will be on, including the Wild's Matt Cullen, so we'll be previewing the home opener and make it a largely hockeycentric show. So be sure to call in tomorrow night.

Speaking of Opening Night, here's a look at the festivities.

Face-off is at 7:30 p.m. while a red carpet entrance begins the evening’s events at 4:15 p.m.

The events begin with a Wake-Up Rally from 6:00- 9 a.m. at the St. Paul RiverCentre on Kellogg Blvd. Fans can drive up or walk up, and will receive a free cup of coffee, muffins and Coke products. In addition, morning newspapers will be handed out, including our wonderful product, and 2010-11 Wild wall calendars.

The team will also host a Red Carpet Entrance and Pre-Game Party. Fans are invited to welcome the Wild players as they make their red carpet arrival for Opening Night at the St. Paul RiverCentre on Kellogg Blvd. from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m., then stick around for a pre-game party complete with music, food and beverage, interactive games and more from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Prizes, including Wild game tickets and a trip to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, will be awarded to fans who register at the pre-game party. Both events are free and open to the public.

Pre-game ceremonies will then celebrate the Wild’s first nine seasons as the puck waits to drop on Year Ten. A video tribute to the inaugural team will be shown, followed by on-ice introductions of inaugural team members. Then fans will be treated to a look back at the Top 10 Moments in Wild history.

Minnesota is 8-0-1 all-time in Home Openers, winning its last eight overall. All fans attending Thursday’s game will receive a Year Ten Minnesota Wild wall calendar and nine lucky fans will be awarded a game-worn jersey from one of the first nine seasons.

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