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 walloped in Smashville

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: March 10, 2011 - 11:16 PM

Not a good game for the Wild, to put it mildly.

They had a good first shift in the offensive zone!!! Hey, as I wrote in my file-at-the-buzzer, running gamer, that was the only improvement over the previous two meetings with Nashville in which the Preds smoked em.

In the last nine periods against Nashville, the Wild was outscored 13-2 in three losses. The Predators are a structured, wonderfully-coached, very fast team, and if you're not paying attention to details and disciplined in your play, they'll dissect you like a frog.

The Wild in three straight meetings were picked apart.

Tonight, poor decisions, like Greg Zanon's interference right off the hop on Patric Hornqvist during a Nashville line change after Hornqvist had been on the ice for 1:07, to lackadaisical backchecking by the forwards, to uncontrolled play again from Brent Burns, to poor reads in front of Niklas Backstrom, the Wild was just too loose in its own end.

The start was critical, especially when you're playing a game that Barry Trotz felt was a "trap" because the Wild should have been jacked to start a big road trip and the Preds were returning from a long trip out West. He felt there was no juice at the Preds' morning skate.

So when the Wild fell behind 2-zip ASAP, it was over. The Preds are the second-best defensive team in the West statistically. The Wild is offensively challenged even with Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck.

There'd be no comeback on this night, and that was clear as day. I mean, the Wild's ONLY scoring chance in the first two periods was Antti Miettinen missing a wide-open net. That was huge because a minute later, Martin Erat made it 3-zilch.

"I don’t know if it was rolling or something,” Miettinen said. “I just thought, ‘I’m going to try a quick backhand because I don’t have time to bring it back to my forehand.’ That would have given us a little boost, a little good feeling at that point."
 
The Wild had five shots in the first, six in the first 30 minutes and nine in the first 40. Nineteen in the game.
 
At one point, Pekka Rinne actually rolled up into a sleeping bag. It was weird. Never seen that before.

Brent Burns has got to be better. I've laid off of him, but his defensive game and sometimes uncontrolled play has outweighed the positives he brings since the All-Star break. If he finishes the season this way, I don't see this team being willing to fork over $5+ million a year on a long-term deal for him.

Todd Richards addressed this the other day and I hadn't written it yet, but Burns has got to go back to simplifying his game, taking care of his own end first and the offense will come. But he's got to be cleaner in his own end.

A big indication of how all over the place he's been has been his penalties. He's taken 10 minor penalties in the last 11 games, 14 in the last 16.

Burns is a great player, and for a team shorthanded, they need him to be a rock right now.

Don't mean to pick on Burns because a lot of guys weren't good.

Richards was worried after the game that the team is waiting for Koivu and Clutterbuck to return. If that's the case, that is not a good sign.

I did look Koivu in the eyes after the game. I don't think he's ready to return, but man, it wouldn't shock me if he tries to give it a go against Dallas. The team's in a bad spot in the standings suddenly.

I think Vancouver is the date he'd been targeting because it gives him four more days to heal, plus two morning skates, a complete day off and a practice. But we'll see tomorrow if we find out he's a gametime decision, which is usually an indicator of playing. Same with Cal Clutterbuck.

These are two important guys who provide energy, leadership and obviously solid play on most nights.

This is a team that lacked any pushback tonight, and Richards asked after the game for somebody to step up.

But the room was so dejected afterward, I really wonder if the jolt can come in any other means than the return of Clutterbuck and Koivu. After all, the Wild is facing on the road three better teams coming up in a must-win road trip now in my mind.

That's it from me. 11:15 p.m. and I'm staring at a 3 a.m. wakeup call. Talk to you Friday.

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