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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Backstrom back in goal tonight against Flames

Posted by: under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: December 3, 2010 - 2:01 PM

Rachel Blount checks in from Wild practice: 

--Niklas Backstrom will be back in goal tonight after sitting out the last two games and putting in some extra practice time. Coach Todd Richards said that watching a couple of games can be helpful to players strugging to regain their form. "Sometimes you learn a lot when you're sitting and watching the game, seeing what's going on,'' he said. "Hopefully, he's benefited from that and some good practice work.''

Backstrom, though, is extremely eager to get back. "Everybody wants to play,'' he said.
--Chuck Kobasew is anxious to return, too, but it won't happen tonight. He's missed 13 games with a groin injury and could get back into the lineup Saturday at Dallas.
"I'm ready to go,'' he said. "I've been skating with the team for quite some time, and I feel good. I want to get back in as soon as I can.''

Another healthy forward, Richards said, gives the Wild something else it needs: competition for playing time. "That's where the accountability part comes in,'' he said. "We're starting to get healthy bodies now, and healthy bodies mean that if your game isn't going, chances are the next game, you might not be playing. That's what it's going to come down to now. There are guys sitting there who are capable and ready to go.''

--It appears Pierre-Marc Bouchard has not stopped smiling since he returned to the lineup Wednesday. He felt a bit tired after playing 14 minutes, but he hardly minded.

"It doesn't matter how hard you practice and work out in the gym; that first game drains a lot of energy,'' he said. "I didn't expect to play that much. I was a little surprised. But my legs were feeling good. Coach put me out there, and I was gaining a little bit more confidence as the game went on.''

Bouchard said Wednesday's game--his first in more than a year--felt like his first NHL game all over again, giving him goose bumps. Doctors are continuing to monitor him after games and practices for any symptoms of the post-concussion syndrome that kept him sidelined. Richards said he'll also be watching Bouchard's stamina closely, particularly since the Wild is in the midst of a stretch that includes three games in four days.

Richards plans to keep him on a line with Martin Havlat and Kyle Brodziak for the time being to see how the chemistry develops. Bouchard said he knows Havlat well; for the past three or four summers, they have skated together in Montreal.

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