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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Posts about Wild off-season news

Parises have twins on the way

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 27, 2013 - 4:37 PM

One big reason why Zach Parise wanted to return home to Minnesota and sign a 13-year contract in the summer of 2012 was to build a family.

Well, one is on the way.

Parise's wife, Alisha, is pregnant with twins, the Wild forward said today.

There must be something in the water because last month, Twins hometown hero Joe Mauer became a father for the first time when his wife, Maddie, gave birth to twin girls.

Parise said Alisha is due in January. Parise said he and his wife have been told one of the babies is a boy, but the doctor couldn't tell yet the gender of the other baby.

Parise said he texted Mauer, they've been in contact and so have their wives. "They're helping us out with different things to get that have helped them," Parise said.

Parise and the rest of the U.S. National Team at Olympics orientation camp is heading to the Nationals-Marlins game tonight here in DC.

Incidentally, Wild captain Mikko Koivu's fiancee, Helena, is due with the couple's first child in October.

 

Wild announces TV schedule

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 27, 2013 - 3:12 PM

The Wild revealed its television schedule for the season today.

It will have 70 of its games on Fox Sports North or Fox Sports North Plus, and the remaining 12 on the NBC Sports Network.

The season opener, Oct. 3 vs. Los Angeles at the X, will be on NBCSN.

On the radio, Wild games are on KFAN (100.3 FM), with conflict games moving to 107.9 FM.

Here, from a Wild release, is the regular season schedule (home games in caps):

OCTOBER (REGULAR SEASON)
THUR. 3 LOS ANGELES 7:00 P.M. NBCSN
SAT. 5 ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M. FSN
Tue. 8 at Nashville 7:00 p.m. FSN
THUR. 10 WINNIPEG 7:00 P.M. FSN
SAT. 12 DALLAS 7:00 P.M. FSN
Mon. 14 at Buffalo 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Tue. 15 at Toronto 6:00 p.m. FSN
Thur. 17 at Tampa Bay 6:30 p.m. FSN
Sat. 19 at Florida 6:00 p.m. FSN
TUE. 22 NASHVILLE 7:00 P.M. NBCSN
THUR. 24 CAROLINA 7:00 P.M. FSN
Sat. 26 at Chicago 7:00 p.m. FSN
MON. 28 CHICAGO 7:00 P.M. FSN

NOVEMBER
FRI. 1 MONTREAL 7:00 P.M. FSN+
SUN. 3 NEW JERSEY 7:00 P.M. FSN
TUE. 5 CALGARY 7:00 P.M. FSN
Thur. 7 at Washington 6:00 p.m. FSN
Sat. 9 at Carolina 6:00 p.m. FSN
WED. 13 TORONTO 6:30 P.M. FSN+
FRI. 15 FLORIDA 7:00 P.M. FSN
SUN. 17 WINNIPEG 7:00 P.M. FSN
Tue. 19 at Montreal 6:30 p.m. FSN
Wed. 20 at Ottawa 6:30 p.m. FSN+
Sat. 23 at Winnipeg 2:00 p.m. FSN
Mon. 25 at St. Louis 7:00 p.m. NBCSN
WED. 27 PHOENIX 7:00 P.M. FSN
FRI. 29 COLORADO 5:00 P.M. FSN
Sat. 30 at Colorado 8:00 p.m. FSN+

DECEMBER

MON. 2 PHILADELPHIA 7:00 P.M. NBCSN
THUR. 5 CHICAGO 7:00 P.M. FSN
Fri. 6 at Columbus 6:00 p.m. FSN
SUN. 8 SAN JOSE 5:00 P.M. FSN
Wed. 11 at Anaheim 9:30 p.m. FSN
Thur. 12 at San Jose 9:30 p.m. FSN
Sat. 14 at Colorado 8:00 p.m. FSN
TUE. 17 VANCOUVER 7:00 P.M. FSN
Thur. 19 at Pittsburgh 6:00 p.m. FSN
Sun. 22 at N.Y. Rangers 6:30 p.m. FSN
Mon. 23 at Philadelphia 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Fri. 27 at Winnipeg 7:00 p.m. FSN
SUN. 29 N.Y. ISLANDERS 7:00 P.M. FSN
TUE. 31 ST. LOUIS 5:00 P.M. FSN



JANUARY
THUR. 2 BUFFALO 7:00 P.M. FSN
SAT. 4 WASHINGTON 7:00 P.M. FSN
Tue. 7 at Los Angeles 9:30 p.m. FSN
Thur. 9 at Phoenix 8:00 p.m. FSN
SAT. 11 COLORADO 7:00 P.M. FSN
Sun. 12 at Nashville 6:00 p.m. FSN+
TUE. 14 OTTAWA 7:00 P.M. FSN
THUR. 16 EDMONTON 7:00 P.M. FSN
SAT. 18 DALLAS 8:00 P.M. FSN
Tue. 21 at Dallas 7:00 p.m. NBCSN
THUR. 23 CHICAGO 7:00 P.M. FSN
Sat. 25 at San Jose 9:30 p.m. FSN
Tue. 28 at Anaheim 9:00 p.m. FSN
Thur. 30 at Colorado 8:00 p.m. FSN

FEBRUARY

Sat. 1 at Calgary 9:00 p.m. FSN
TUE. 4 TAMPA BAY 7:00 P.M. FSN
THUR. 6 NASHVILLE 7:00 P.M. FSN
Fri. 7-Wed. 26 Olympic Break (Sochi, Russia)
Thur. 27 at Edmonton 8:30 p.m. FSN
Fri. 28 at Vancouver 9:00 p.m. FSN

MARCH

MON. 3 CALGARY 7:00 P.M. FSN
Sat. 8 at Dallas 7:30 p.m. FSN
SUN. 9 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M. FSN
TUE. 11 EDMONTON 7:00 P.M. FSN+
THUR. 13 N.Y. RANGERS 7:00 P.M. FSN
SAT. 15 COLUMBUS 7:00 P.M. FSN
Mon. 17 at Boston 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Tue. 18 at N.Y. Islanders 6:00 p.m. FSN
Thur. 20 at New Jersey 6:00 p.m. FSN+
SAT. 22 DETROIT 1:00 P.M. FSN
Sun. 23 at Detroit 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
WED. 26 VANCOUVER 6:30 P.M. FSN
Thur. 27 at St. Louis 7:00 p.m. FSN
Sat. 29 at Phoenix 8:00 p.m. FSN
Mon. 31 at Los Angeles 9:00 p.m. NBCSN

APRIL
Thur. 3 at Chicago 7:00 p.m. NBCSN
SAT. 5 PITTSBURGH 7:00 P.M. FSN
Mon. 7 at Winnipeg 7:00 p.m. FSN
TUE. 8 BOSTON 7:00 P.M. FSN
THUR. 10 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M. NBCSN
SUN. 13 NASHVILLE 7:00 P.M. FSN





 

Projecting the 2014 U.S. Olympic men's hockey roster

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 27, 2013 - 1:12 PM

 

The U.S. orientation camp in Virginia is coming to an end today. This morning was a public day at the rink where fans could get player autographs and got to witness the jersey unveiling for the 2014 men, women and sled hockey teams.

 
The jersey can be seen here. Tonight, the team of 48 will be taking in the Washington Nationals-Florida (OK, Miami) Marlins game. I’ll be there, too.
 
Very fun, productive few days here with incredible access to laid back, talkative players. Much of the stuff I put in my holster and will hold for myriad training camp stories and Olympic advances.
 
My article in Wednesday’s newspaper has a Minnesota flair, so check that out. Some of the folks quoted in there are David Backes, Zach Parise, former Wild coach Todd Richards, Paul Martin, Big Buff, Jake Gardiner and non Minnesotan but Minnesota part-time resident JVR – James van Riemsdyk.
 
Speaking of Big Buff, Dustin Byfuglien, he had a couple good lines. Byfuglien, a native of Roseau, attended the 2009 orientation camp but didn’t make the team. The hulk of a Winnipeg Jet blue liner who played forward as a Chicago Blackhawk was asked what he has learned since.
 
He deadpanned, “I learned that I wasn’t a forward.”
 
Former Gopher Blake Wheeler, also a Jet, also had a funny line when we jokingly asked him if the Americans were already behind the Canadians because of Mike Babcock’s ball hockey game: “I’d argue that we’re ahead,” Wheeler cracked.
 
Minnesota had 14 players here. Still, USA Hockey has done a marvelous job expanding its roots throughout the United States. Players from 13 states were represented.
 
“There was a time these teams were picked from the three M’s – Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts,” said Brian Burke, the U.S. director of player development, who grew up in Edina.
 
Minnetonka’s Gardiner, who plays for Toronto, talked a lot about how much this season is essentially a tryout for many of the young players. GM David Poile talked a lot today about how half the team is virtually a lock barring health and how he told the players “this will be the toughest team you’ll ever have to make” and these will be the “toughest decisions we ever have to make.”
 
Coach Dan Bylsma said today that the most likely scenario will be to take 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies to Sochi. So barring health, what would your team be? I’ll put whom I consider the locks and then the candidates:
 
Forwards:
 
Locks (10) – Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, David Backes, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Bobby Ryan, Derek Stepan.
 
Candidates (4) – Max Pacioretty, T.J. Oshie (I think they take one of Pacioretty and Oshie, and Bylsma loves that Backes and Oshie have killed penalties together for “years”), Paul Stastny (U.S. is short centers and he had 15 points in the world championships), James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Okposo, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Palmieri, Brandon Saad, Craig Smith, Nick Bjugstad, Justin Abdelkader, Beau Bennett, Alex Galchenyuk, Trevor Lewis.
 
* Poile said yesterday the Wild’s Jason Pominville is “back on the board” and will be scouted throughout October-December.
 
Defensemen:
 
Locks (6) – Ryan Suter, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, Jack Johnson, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik (Bylsma noted Martin/Orpik chemistry/PK experience).
 
Candidates (2) – John Carlson (very good chance), Keith Yandle, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Cam Fowler, Nick Leddy, Erik Johnson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian, Danny Dekeyser, Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba.
 
Goalies:
 
Lock (1) – Jonathan Quick.
 
Candidates (2) – Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, Corey Schneider, John Gibson.
 
Have at it.
 
Reminder, on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at the Star Tribune booth at the State Fair, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will be joining me to take questions from myself and Wild fans. Please stop by.
 
Also, the Wild announced an affiliation agreement with the Quad City Mallards in the Central Hockey League (CHL) today. Obviously, all its top professional prospects and minor-leaguers will be in Iowa of the AHL. The Wild also has an affiliation agreement with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL.
 

Parise, Suter, Backes part of U.S. leadership group; Pominville "back on board"

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 26, 2013 - 1:07 PM

Good day from the Washington Capitals’ practice facility in Arlington, Va., where today 48 Americans, including the Wild’s Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, took part in the first full day of the 2 ½ day U.S. Olympic men’s hockey orientation camp.

 
Just a reminder, I will be appearing at the Star Tribune booth at the State Fair on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. with Chuck Fletcher. Have a question for the Wild GM, plea
se stop by.
 
As for the U.S. camp, there are 16 returning Olympic hopefuls here. There are 14 players from Minnesota – double the next highest state (Michigan, 7). Those players are Parise, defensemen Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Erik Johnson, Nick Leddy, Paul Martin and Ryan McDonagh and forwards David Backes, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler.
 
 
Minnetonka's own Jake Gardiner (above)
 
Former Wild coach Todd Richards of Crystal, Minn., is also one of coach Dan Bylsma’s assistants. Bylsma was Richards’ assistant when he coached Wilkes-Barre. Remember, Richards left Wilkes-Barre in 2008 to become assistant coach in San Jose. If he hadn’t, it’s very likely Richards would have replaced Michel Therrien as Pittsburgh’s coach that season instead of Bylsma. Bylsma ended up coaching the Pens to the Stanley Cup that 2008-09 season and Richards wound up become Minnesota’s second-ever coach that June.
 
I’ll write about Richards and some of the Minnesotan players for Wednesday’s paper. The official Nike jersey will be unveiled by all 48 players Tuesday as well.
 
For Tuesday’s paper, I wrote about Parise and Suter being included in a five-player leadership group, which includes three NHL captains – St. Louis’ David Backes (Spring Lake Park High), Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown and the Rangers’ Ryan Callahan.
 
You can read Parise and Suter’s comments on that in Tuesday’s paper and Backes’ in Wednesday.
 
Also, in Tuesday’s paper, I talked to GM David Poile about the decision by the United States of not inviting the Wild’s Jason Pominville to camp. Pominville, who typically hits the 20- or even 30-goal mark, was born in Canada but has dual citizenship.
 
Poile said today that Pominville “probably should have” been invited to camp. Poile said Pominville’s name came up Sunday during a five-hour meeting with management and he has been “put back on the board,” meaning he will be scouted all season.
 
“If he plays well enough, he’s back in the mix,” Poile said, although he added that the big reason why Pominville wasn’t included is that there are just several forwards on the potential depth chart with their “foot in the door.” That likely means, at a minimum, guys like Parise, Brown, Backes, Callahan, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan.
 
Remember, only 25 players can make the team and only 20 skaters can dress per game, and seven or eight of those will be defensemen.
 
So while it’s probably still a longshot for Pominville to make the team, he is back on the U.S. radar and if he has a terrific October, November and December for the Wild, he’ll put himself in position to make this arguable snub look like a true oversight.
 
Weird dynamic in camp because the players are not taking the ice due to prohibitive costs to insure the player contracts. Finland actually canceled its camp. Team Canada is in Calgary right now and their players aren’t hitting the ice either (although coach Mike Babcock put the players through ball hockey instruction today to walk through systems and get used to spacing on an international ice surface that will be 15 feet wider than an NHL rink).
 
This morning at the U.S. camp, players went through system tutorial like D-zone, neutral zone and forechecks.
 
“We’ll all go our own way and re-learn our own team’s stuff, but they just want to plant a seed and give us an idea at least of what to expect,” Parise said. “It would have been nice to go on the ice and at least have a visual and walk through. But nobody else is doing it, so it’s not like we’re behind.”
 
Like I said though, weird dynamic because how much will actually be retained. After these 2 ½ days (camp ends Wednesday and includes team dinners, a Nationals game Tuesday, a public day Tuesday, registering for the Olympics and anti-doping program, etc.), players will go back to their own teams for six months. They’ll report in February, charter to Russia, go over video on the plane, have one practice and hit the ice vs. Slovakia on Feb. 13. The Americans are in a pool with host Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia (Anze Kopitar!!!).
 
But as Bylsma said today, this isn’t “comfortable” as a coach.
 
A big theme today was the fact that the Americans are going to Russia to win. They’re not underdogs like 2010. They’ve medaled in every major tournament recently. It’s to the point that the U.S. expects big things when it goes to these tournaments (just ask guys like Phil Housley, Grant Potulny, Mario Lucia and Mikey Reilly, who won gold at the last world juniors).
 
“If I go back, winning a silver medal, there’s something special about it but I didn’t feel special about it for a long time,” said Edina’s Brian Burke, the 2010 GM who is the 2014 director of player personnel. “When you win a bronze medal, you win, the other team leaves and you get your medal. When you win a silver medal, you have to watch the other team get their gold medal, and that’s hard.”
 
The U.S. wants to win gold this time around. A big theme was also the fact that the U.S. with NHLers didn’t medal in Nagano or Torino but did in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. In other words, they have to come up with a team that can compete on the bigger ice. That will go into how the staff assembles this team. So that could really open the door potentially for skaters, like for instance, Gardiner and Leddy.
 
“I don’t want to overplay it as a huge, huge factor,” Poile said. “It’s something we have to adapt to.”
 
I flew here yesterday on the same flight with Backes. As always, he’s just a great dude and quote machine, and that was the case again today. I’ll have a lot from him in Wednesday’s paper, but here’s a few subjects:
 
He was great on what it will be like to play Parise and Suter in the same division this year and then put the red, white and blue sweater on together in February.
 
“We’ll see Suter and Parise five times this year knowing we’re going to be teammates at some point,” Backes said. “We’re not going to take it easy on each other. We’re probably going to scuffle a little bit, like me and Dustin Brown, who play the same style and always seem to run into each other full speed five times a game trying to knock the other’s head off. But after the game you shake a guy’s hand and then become teammates with them. It adds that element of respect. ‘I know how hard it is to play against you. If we can combine our efforts, we can make one heck of a team. Let’s combine forces.’”
 
Also, Backes addressed Russia’s anti-gay law, where technically homosexual athletes could be arrested in Russia during the Olympics: “The position of USA Hockey is hockey is for everyone. As an American who believes in the freedoms that we have and the way we run our society and culture, everyone has their right to participate in sports or live their lifestyle the way they want. I’m supportive of anyone. We had our first gay basketball professional athlete come out this year and my stance was then and is now that anyone is welcome in my locker room with the St. Louis Blues that lives that lifestyle. I don’t care if you’re black, white, green, purple, gold, what you think, as long as your committed to the team aspect and the way that we’re playing, you’re always welcome on my team. I think the guys on this team would all agree that we’re going over there to play a great sport, but we don’t have to agree with everything they do and they don’t have to agree with everything we do. We have our views. You’d like to think that the Olympics are apolitical, but I think you’ve seen in history, they’re not. There’s always some underlying themes that seem to come up. That being said, it’s sport at its purest. It’s always been. The political stuff kind of gets dragged in there. Unfortunately, it does, but we’re there to participate in hopefully what’s going to be a phenomenal Olympic games put on by the Russian Federation.
 
Talk Tuesday.

Koivu, Parise among the dozens skating at 2 Twin Cities camps

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 21, 2013 - 12:22 PM
You know training camp is on the horizon when the pre-training camp camps start to crank up with Wild players and Minnesota-based NHLers. The camps already have impressive numbers and only grow as training camp gets closer.
 
Remember, Wild training camp begins Sept. 11 with fitness testing and physicals. The first day on the ice will be Sept. 12 at Ridder Arena before camp moves to Xcel Energy Center. There will be six preseason games followed by a likely two-day getaway for team bonding Sept. 29-30. The team hasn’t officially decided where it will go yet, but it will likely be somewhere in northern Minnesota, maybe Duluth again.
 
Opening night is Oct. 3 vs. the Los Angeles Kings. “Becoming Wild” starts on Fox Sports North on Sept. 16, I believe, with an exclusive look at Yeo Island – so to speak. Seriously, coach Mike Yeo and his family live on a private island six hours from Toronto for about a month every offseason.
 
This will be Season Three of “Becoming Wild” -- the second consecutive year the episodes will be behind-the-scenes features on single players, or in this case, Yeo.
 
Agent Neil Sheehy’s camp started last week and has had players like David Backes, Drew Stafford, Justin Fontaine, Jordan Schroeder, Danny Kristo, Mikey Reilly, Matt Frattin, Matt Niskanen, Ryan Carter, Jack Hillen and Anders Lee.
 
The Octagon camp, put on by Ben Hankinson and Chris McAlpine, has had so far guys like Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Josh Harding, Clayton Stoner, Keith Ballard, Stephane Veilleux, Dustin Byfuglien, Paul Martin, John Scott, Nick Bjugstad, Ryan McDonagh, Chris Porter, Jake Gardiner, Andrew Alberts, Ryan Jones, Alex Goligoski, Zach Budish, Tim Jackman, Mark Stuart, Nate Thompson, Jimmy O’Brien, Matt Carle, etc. Goalies include Alex Stalock, his cousin, Adam Wilcox and Alex Kangas. Lots of others, too.
 
The Sheehy camp is open to the public at Augsburg. They have ice reserved this week and next from 9-11 a.m. weekdays.
 
Like I said, as camps get closer, more players show. Jonas Brodin is supposed to get in next week, etc.
 
Several of these camps are going on throughout the continent, some in Toronto and Montreal and other markets with teams. Dany Heatley’s been skating in Kelowna. Chuck Fletcher said last week that Nino Niederreiter was flying to Portland to skate with his old junior team before coming here to the Twin Cities.
 
I can tell already there’s a different feel at this year’s Octagon camp. Last year, we all knew the lockout was all but guaranteed to occur. Now, as Koivu said yesterday, there’s a genuine excitement.
 
Three weeks before camp, and Koivu gets to skate with his likely linemate, Parise, to get ready.
 
Just on an aside, Wild training camp should be fun. Yeo plans to experiment with dozens of line combinations in camp. So the lines on Day One will not likely be the lines on Day Two, and that could even include Koivu and Parise. But on that No. 1 line, Yeo will be looking at everybody from Jason Pominville and Heatley on the right wing to Charlie Coyle again. At No. 2 center, Yeo will be looking at Coyle and Mikael Granlund to Erik Haula.
 
Niederreiter will get a great look, from Line 2 to Line 3. And look for Nate Prosser, Jonathon Blum and Matt Dumba to get great looks on the blue line and Fontaine to get a really good look in camp as well. I’ll write more about all this as camp approaches.
 
The front office and coaching staffs are meeting this week to discuss the team. One of the topics will be whether or not the Wild should bring anybody in on tryouts. Fletcher said last week that often times that just “muddies the water” and his preference would be not to bring anybody in, but he said he would leave it largely up to the coaching staff. In other words, if Yeo, Rick Wilson, Darryl Sydor, Darby Hendrickson or maybe an Andrew Brunette felt there was the potential of a great fit out there, he would investigate.
 
There are still some decent names out there. On the back end, there’s Ron Hainsey, Ryan Whitney and Doug Murray among others. On wing, there’s veterans like Jamie Langenbrunner and Brenden Morrow and Brad Boyes and the skilled Damien Brunner. At center, there’s Mikhail Grabovski and Vinny Prospal. Frankly, there are many quality players available (go to capgeek.com/free-agents) and just no money in the system, whether it be the dozen teams near the cap or teams that are pretty much at their budget. Or, you have teams who have spots filled. There are only 23 spots on a hockey team and typically only 12 forwards, six D and two goalies that dress.
 
Scary times for these players. Lots of careers could be ending or transitioning to Europe.
 
That’s it for me. I will be live at the state fair with Paul Allen from the KFAN booth on Thursday from 11:20 a.m.-noon.
 
On August 29 at 12:30 p.m., please come to the Star Tribune booth, where Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will be joining me for a Q and A with Wild fans.
 
Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/russostrib) and read the blog Monday and Tuesday because I will be covering the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team camp from Arlington, Va. Besides Parise and Ryan Suter, 14 Minnesotans will be attending – double the next highest state (Michigan, 7). Those players are Parise, defensemen Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Erik Johnson, Nick Leddy, Paul Martin and Ryan McDonagh and forwards David Backes, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler.
 

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