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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Theodore starts, Cullen out for "Dino Ciccarelli" Night at the X; Captain's jersey auction begins on NHL.com

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: December 16, 2010 - 12:35 PM

Afternoon from Xcel Energy Center's press box, where the Ottawa Senators are currently skating below with many of their dads in the stands watching.

GM Bryan Murray's on the bench drinking a coffee. Not often you see Murray standing without a coffee (kinda like me). Often times, he'll be spilling coffee on his fingers without even knowing. Not kidding. When I covered him as Florida's GM, I used to get a kick out of chatting with him and watching BM The GM angle that cup to where eventually the coffee would spill out onto his fingers.

I used to pay attention because often times if I didn't, his coffee would land on the toes of my boat shoes.

Just something I thought I'd share. I'm sure you missed me these past couple days after insights like that.

Amazingly, this is my first home game I've covered since Nov. 24. I was a bit of a mess: Dropping things, couldn't find my credential, accidentally shut off the locker-room lights. No big deal.

"Dino Ciccarelli Night" tonight as the Wild honors the former North Stars great and recently-inducted Hall of Famer. I talked to Dino as he was driving to the Detroit airport this morning, and he was excited, both about tonight and Lou Nanne's party to honor him this weekend. As I wrote 3 or so weeks ago, lots and lots of North Star alum plan to attend Nanne's home, many of whom Ciccarelli hasn't seen in years.

Would have been a hockey writers' dream, but unfortunately I can't take advantage of the invite because I'll be in Calgary.  

Wild ask for fans attending tonight to be in their seats by 7 for the Ciccarelli festivities.

Jose Theodore starts tonight with Niklas Backstrom coming off a stinker in Anaheim. Frankly, Backstrom was real good his previous two starts, especially at Phoenix last Thursday, so I think too much is being made of the Backstrom sitdown. Obviously, Backstrom went through a three-game stretch where he did struggle dramatically late last month.

But it's hard to argue starting Theodore tonight, but again, even though Backstrom was not very good at Anaheim, neither was the team in front of him prior to some of the goals. But Backstrom wasn't sharp, dropping pucks left and right and kicking out rebounds.

Todd Richards' quote on why: "Right now we feel Jose gives us the best chance."

Ouch, yes, but key words there: "Right now." Things change quickly in this business, so to me, this is only the second game recently in this stretch where Backstrom normally would have started that he isn't. I'll wait a bit before deciding this is a cliched goalie controversy. Plus, Backstrom's still the guy thats's staying no matter what and Theodore's still the guy that if I were the Wild, I'd eventually try to trade (as long as the Wild's out of it by the Feb. 28 deadline).

He's on a one-year deal and some teams could need a goalie for a playoff run. And like it or not folks, that's the reality. Backstrom's $6 million-a-year contract will keep him here no matter what.

John Madden (upper body) didn't know if he's playing tonight. Said he feels "pretty good" but had to find out if he'd play. Matt Cullen won't play with a groin injury, but he said he plans to be on the plane tomorrow to Calgary.

If Madden can't play, the Wild will have to go with seven defensemen (Clayton Stoner) because they didn't call up another forward after sending Warren Peters back. Very surprised that, at least as far as we know now, they didn't call up another forward as insurance.

Remember, today will be that NHL.com auction that's been organized by Wild equipment manager Tony DaCosta and Coyotes equipment manager Stan Wilson to raise money for the daughters of Coyotes trainer Jukka Nieminen, who died in June one day before his wedding at age 40.

DaCosta and Wilson got 27 game-worn captain's jerseys and a Henrik Lundqvist jersey for the auction. If you didn't read the sad story I wrote last week about it, here's a link.

What else? I hoped you got a chance to watch the first episode of HBO's 24/7 last night. Great behind-the-scenes look at the teams. The myriad emotions between the Penguins and Capitals were so apparent due to one team's 12-game win streak at the time and the other's trip and stumble.

Get ready for some F-bombs if you watch with your children.

If you missed it, here's the replay schedule.

What else? Hopefully you follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/russostrib). I explained there why the Wild would not (and they didn't) take Brian Rolston off waivers and why they won't even if he's put on re-entry waivers.

What else? Sweden's official world junior roster is in. Wild prospects Johan Larsson and Johan Gustafsson made it.

Lastly, did you all see this line brawl in the wild, wild west, I mean KHL? Martin Skoula was jumped late by former NHLer Josh Gratton and was hospitalized. Apparently Chris Simon plays for the other team, but I can't tell if he was involved.

 

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