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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Wild completes home-and-home sweep with Blues; moves into 8th in the West; Zidlicky, Latendresse updates

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: February 13, 2011 - 12:28 AM

One-sided contest here tonight as the Wild beat St. Louis for the second straight night. The Wild set the tone early by storming out of the gate, then spent the night winning battles, playing with a fast pace and limiting the Blues' offensive chances during another solid all-around effort.

The Wild's 9-2 in the past 11, has won four in a row at home, has 13 wins since Jan. 2 (tied with Philly for most in the NHL) and jumped over Calgary, which lost to Vancouver, to move into 8th in the West.

The Wild has three games in hand on Calgary, but Los Angeles and Chicago are both on the Wild's tail. In front, the Wild's one point behind San Jose and Anaheim and two points behind Nashville and Phoenix. The Wild has one or two games in hand on all four of those teams, meaning the Wild's in very good shape as long as it keeps winning.

Very impressive win tonight in front of the largest crowd of the season. Big, emotional win filled with big hits and three scraps. As Cal Clutterbuck, who scored his team-high 17th goal, said, the Wild won the game maybe in the first five minutes of the second. The Wild just won every battle and eventually extended its lead to 2-0, then 3-0 on goals by Antti Miettinen and Kyle Brodziak.

The second period pretty much embodied what kind of night it was for St. Louis:
--The Blues finally get their first momentum of the game, but Alex Steen takes a goalie interference penalty and Miettinen scores nine seconds later.
--The Blues, on their heels, get a power play. But Jaroslav Halak negates the advantage 39 seconds later by airlifting the puck into the stands, and Brodziak scores four seconds into the 4-on-4 to end Halak's night.
--The Blues finally spend a good minute in the Wild end buzzing. The Wild finally get the puck out but John Madden’s the only Wild player of the four to escape for the bench. With the Wild trapped, St. Louis’ shot selection is from outside the circles and Niklas Backstrom easily swallows the puck for a stoppage.

Backstrom made 24 saves and has given up two or less in seven of his past eight starts. Over a 5-2 stretch, Backstrom has a 1.42 goals against average and .956 save percentage.

Things boiled over late when Greg Zanon said Steen tripped him, then came back at him. Zanon slashed him and went back at home, saying he won't "back down to anybody." Then Clayton Stoner and David Backes got into a shoving match that erupted into a fight. Stoner clobbered Backes with two rights and Backes skated to the bench with blood pouring from his forehead.

Brad Staubitz, who had seven hits in eight shifts, had a big fight with Cam Janssen and Cam Barker, who played great, fought Matt D'Agostini. Just an all-around win as the Wild continues to look like it's found itself.

Vancouver comes to town next Tuesday in the second of a back-to-back for them. As you know, the Wild usually has Vancouver's number here, so even though the Canucks are the best team in the NHL, we'll see if the House of Horrors affects them again.

Marek Zidlicky and Guillaume Latendresse updatesin the notebook here.

Other tidbits:

--Clutterbuck, who scored three times in the home-and-home with St. Louis, has new career-highs this season in goals (17), assists (10) and points (27).

--In the Wild’s 9-2-0 stretch, Brodziak has 10 points (2-8=10) and is a plus-eight. Brodziak and RW Martin Havlat are tied for the team lead in that span in both points and plus-minus.

--The Wild has won four straight home games for the first time since Jan. 23-Feb. 6, 2010.

--The Wild improved to 24-3-2 when scoring three or more goals and 25-2-4 when scoring first.

--Minnesota is 17-7-1 in its past 25 contests, holding opponents to one goal or less 12 update times.

The Wild won't practice Sunday, but the players will be at the arena. The Houston Aeros host Peoria at 1, so Wild players will sign autographs before the game ($10 per table to benefit Wild Foundation) and Aeros players will sign for free after.

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and tickets are $20. The game can be seen on wild.com.

Good night.

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