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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Caps stars invade the X; How does Richards, Havlat react?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: October 28, 2010 - 9:37 AM

Good morning. About to head down to the X, where I'll spend the entire day punching the keyboard. So I'll blog again after the morning skate.

The Caps may not skate this morning after shutting out the Hurricanes in Carolina's home opener last night. That's not the simplest back-to-back in the world, and one does wonder if Bruce Boudreu comes right back with Czech goalie Michal Neuvirth. The 22-year-old made 29 saves for his first NHL shutout -- including a magnificent sliding glove stop to rob Eric Staal of the tying goal in the second period.

The Capitals, a team rich in superstars, make a rare St. Paul appearance, so come down and check it out.

Last year, Alex Ovechkin, featured in a very entertaining November GQ, registered his fourth 50-goal, 100-point season. Sidekicks Nicklas Backstrom finished fourth in the NHL with 101 points and Alexander Semin seventh with 40 goals. And Mike Green has led NHL defensemen in scoring in consecutive seasons.
 
“They do everything 100 miles an hour,” said Wild goalie Jose Theodore, who played the past two seasons in Washington and got to play in Colorado with Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg.
 
“I’ve seen a lot of highlight goals in my career. Washington is a skilled, skilled team. A lot of people say they play a lot like the Oilers did in the 80s. They want to go offense and they want to score some goals.”

Tonight, one has to think Marty Havlat will be motivated to "go offense" and score -- or create -- some goals, too. He was the subject of my article in today's paper (link here). Agent Allan Walsh is obviously unhappy and believes Havlat has been under-utilized in Minnesota under coach Todd Richards.

I tried to write it fair and balanced, and let both sides speak.

But regardless of what you think of Walsh airing his gripes in the media, this is the reality: If Havlat's not happy the way he's being utilized here, the Wild better repair this. For a player on Year 2 of a 6-year deal at a $5 million a year cap hit, the Wild better figure out a way to make him happy because the player most often wins in this situation.

The Wild's just not good enough to have Havlat unhappy, and not performing. They need Marty Havlat to be the Marty Havlat of old, and that is a very dynamic player.

So it'll be interesting to see how Richards reacts here. Does he throw him now on the No. 1 PP unit? Does he spot him in on the PK? Does he play him alongside Mikko Koivu even though Koivu wants to be attached at the hip to Antti Miettinen?

And if Richards does react like that, how does Kaptain Koivu handle that and the rest of the team? Suddenly Richards is a pretty tough predicament.

The reality is even though Koivu and Havlat didn't have the best chemistry for the very brief time they played together, Havlat is the Wild's highest-paid skater and second highest-paid player (Koivu's extension doesn't start til next year) and maybe he warrants a try with the Wild's best center. And let's be honest: Antti Miettinen should be a 50-goal scorer with the scoring chances he receives on the No. 1 line. Maybe it's time to break that up. As I wrote the other day, at some point I'd think you'd have to try a different No. 1 line when you're a team coming off two non-playoff years.

We'll see. The other reality now is all eyes will be analyzing Havlat's every move in a game now, especially if Richards increases his ice time and gives him a more significant role. And Walsh knows that. And you can bet Havlat knows that. Fans are going to want to see effort and points, and if he receives more ice time and more of a role and still doesn't perform, now it's on him.

Talk to you later.

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