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 ready for back-to-back games vs. Vancouver, at Chicago; More on Zidlicky

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: February 15, 2011 - 1:13 PM

Afternoon on a beautiful Minnesota day, at least here in the Metro.

First a little bookkeeping: "Russo Radio" tonight at 6 on 1500ESPN, so tune in on your way to the Wild's latest "big game" against the Canuckleheads. I'll also be on the TEAM1040 in Vancouver at 1:30 p.m. CT/11:30 a.m. PT

Also, my next live chat on startribune.com will be next Tuesday.

No lineup changes for the Wild tonight. Vancouver's coming off a rare loss in St. Louis and lost yet another defenseman, local boy Andrew Alberts, with a broken wrist. No Alberts, Ballard, Edler and Hamhuis tonight.

They did call up 20-year-old defenseman Yann Sauve to play. He's the kid that was hit by a car in Vancouver during training camp and suffered a concussion. Frankly, the way this year is going for the Canucks, if you're a Vancouver defenseman, they should be given police escorts and bubble-wrapped.

Cory Schneider is expected to start in goal vs. Niklas Backstrom.

Marek Zidlicky continues to progress and look better and better for El Silvestres.

He won't play tonight though, nor tomorrow in Chicago. Friday's a possibility against Anaheim, but it appears as if the Wild largely won't practice Thursday, which makes Sunday's 11:30 a.m. game against Detroit a bigger possibility.

"The big question is going to be him," coach Todd Richards said. "You want to make sure in the player's mind he's confident."

Richards said he still needs to meet with the coaches regarding how they ease Zidlicky in and/or what lineup decisions he makes once Zidlicky comes back -- i.e. which D comes out some nights or maybe if he plays 7 D on other nights.

But Richards agrees that lately Cam Barker is playing much, much better and is making the decision difficult on him. It sounded like initially, Richards may want to play 7 D so he can ease Zidlicky back in. After all, he hasn't played since Dec. 29 and the games right now are faster than they've been all year long. 

Remember, the Wild will hold its first outdoor practice in team history Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Guidant John Rose MN OVAL located at 2661 Civic Center Drive in Roseville. The practice is free and open to the general public weather permitting.

Following the Wild practice, fans can participate in an open skate until 2 p.m. The Guidant John Rose MN Oval is the largest outdoor refrigerated skating facility in North America. The Wild obviously isn't sure how many fans will show for this, so get there early because space around the rink and parking is limited, so you don't want to get shut out.

The Wild leaves immediately after tonight's game for Chicago, where it visits the Blackhawks tomorrow night at 7. The Wild won there right before the All-Star break.

According to a tweet by the great Tracey Myers from CSN Chicago, Patrick Kane didn't practice today with the flu, so we'll see if he's a question mark. Fernando Pisani isn't practicing with an upper body injury and the great Ryan Johnson is on IR.

Nick Leddy has been recalled from Barker from Rockford (Freudian slip if there ever was one, eh?)on the Salary Cap Shuttle he's been on lately. Talk to you tonight after the game.

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