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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A look at Western Conference race; Wild roster updates

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 10, 2011 - 2:16 PM

Afternoon from cold, wet Nashville.

Another just unbelievably bad evening last night in the NHL if you're a Wild player or fan or manager or owner. It seems like 90 percent of the nights these days, literally everything the Wild doesn't want to happen happens.

If L.A. loses in regulation in Detroit -- hey, good chance of that, right? -- the Wild moves into 8th without even playing.

Nope, L.A. wins against the Red Wings, who are just slaughtering the below threshold teams lately with things like, say, blowing three-goal third-period leads in Phoenix.

Calgary then last night blows a 3-goal lead in Dallas before winning in a shootout, so a needless 3-point game. And Anaheim destroys the Rangers, a true shocker since the Rangers have literally been vegging in Southern California since Sunday for no reason.

Sorry. I don't mean to pick on the Rangers. Most teams would take a California vacation in the middle of a cutthroat March playoff race.

So instead of best-case scenario the Wild being 8th heading into tonight's game at Nashville, the Wild's 9th and tied with Anaheim, two points behind LA, three behind Dallas and four behind Calgary.

Yep, another wonderful idle night for Minnesota.

What does this all prove? The Wild's just got to win because if you spend every night standings watching, you'll make yourself loco.

Speaking of needing to just win, Nashville opens 12 of its final 15 games at home tonight against the Wild. The Preds are coming off a long road trip that ended in California, so we'll see if the Wild, who were beaten soundly in its last two meetings with Nashville, can take advantage of the standard first-game-back-out-from-a-long-road-trip dead-legged, slumber.

Then on to Dallas, where the Wild hasn't won since the Truman administration.

Normally five or six points on a four-game trip would be a success, but in this conference, the Wild needs to win. BUT, if you're going to say only get four points on this trip, better make in Nashville and Dallas then Vancouver and San Jose. I just mean even if the Wild beat Vancouver and San Jose and lost to Nashville and Dallas (two of the team's it's fighting for a playoff spot with), the Wild would still do itself damage.

To say it simpler, the Wild cannot give Nashville and Dallas points.

See, as Todd Richards kidded the other day, I am your classic glass half empty journalist.

That was a lot of needless rambling to get to the news:

1. Niklas Backstrom in net, Jose Theodore tomorrow in Dallas against two of his best buds, Stephane Robidas and Mike Ribeiro.

2. Cal Clutterbuck will miss his third game tonight with the injury Don Cherry says he never got and Mikko Koivu will miss his 10th. They are questionable for tomorrow in Dallas.

3. Clayton Stoner is out with a lower body injury. Cam Barker's out with an upper. So Marco Scandella, on emergency recall, plays his first NHL game since taking a puck in the back of the head Jan. 14 (left him with a concussion). He had been playing in Houston.

4. Casey Wellman was reassigned, then recalled on emergency recall in case very sore Guillaume Latendresse couldn't play. Latendresse? You wouldn't believe what this guy looks like after games or skates today. His lower body is wrapped up with so much ice, he looks like a sumo-wrestling mummy.

He's been sore since his return, but he told me he's playing tonight. If the decision is indeed his and Richards agrees he's healthy enough to play, Wellman cannot play unless somebody else got hurt. That's due to the "emergency recall."

Remember, you only get four post-trade deadline non-emergency recalls, and the Wild's used two -- Warren Peters and Jared Spurgeon (logistical paperwork move to make Spurgeon eligible for AHL playoffs).

Latendresse will get a big test tonight if he is indeed playing. Nashville is a very, very fast team. Latendresse, right now, is not a very, very fast player because of all his time off, so it'll be interesting to watch how he adjusts to the speed. More on this in the notebook. I've gotten a lot of questions about what happens to the Bouchard-Brodziak-Havlat line now that Latendresse is back since Latendresse was so good as Brodziak and Havlat's left wing last year. I'll let Richards answer that in tomorrow's paper.

5. Incidentally, Trevor Gillies talked to Newsday yesterday (I used to be a paperboy for Newsday) for the first time. Here's a link (hopefully the link works for you because some stories on their site you have to be a subscriber).

I know there were other things I wanted to get to, but I'm suddenly swamped with work and need to leave for the game in a few hours. More later.

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