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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Good morning back in the Twin Cities. It's actually 2:34 a.m. your time as I begin this blog, but I figured I'd get a couple things in here as I kill some time before heading to the rink for Carolina and Minnesota practices (11 a.m./1 p.m. Finland time today, with the Wild being the latter).
Here are the links to stories in Wednesday's paper, which I know you read anyway because there's nothing else going on sportswise in the Twin Cities with the Twins and Vikings:
Matt Cullen feature, essentially saying, he's ready to lead and perform. Also on that link is a video I shot yesterday.
Wild notebook leading with the roster moves, particularly the fact that it looks like Casey Wellman and Justin Falk have made the team. Of course, and this is the caveat, this is barring a trade or waiver pickup Wednesday.
If you go to my Twitter page and scroll down, I posted some other videos on there in the wee hours of the morning.
Falk and Wellman were all smiles this morning, knowing no news is good news. In sports, they usually come up to you and let you know you made the team. They just tell others they didn't. So Falk and Wellman were very relieved to be ignored wholeheartedly yesterday by management.
Of course, they're young, so they know they better never get comfortable.
As for the team's cap hit, the Wild technically are a little short of the cap because even though Wellman and Falk have $1.35 million and $741,667 cap hits accordingly, these are including potential bonuses and there's a 7.5 percent bonus cushion that allows you to go over the cap.
Wellman's salary is 900K and Falk is 605K, as an fyi.
Again, the Wild should get another $803K of cap relief when it suspends James Sheppard, and I do believe it's when and not if due to getting injured on an ATV days before training camp. Sjeppard is back home now taking a mental break, GM Chuck Fletcher said, but will return to the Twin Cities when the Wild gets back. While suspended, he wouldn't get paid but the Wild would continue to rehab him.
Fletcher won't comment on that. Josh Harding will not go on long-term injury relief yet. Fletcher says there's no rush and if the Wild ever needs to exceed the cap, it can put him on LTIR retroactively and spend up to his $1.2 million. Bouchard will open the season on IR.
Fletcher said the Wild will return home and build some salary-cap room. He's obviously talking about sending Anton Khudobin down to the minors, plus especially at home, I'd think the Wild won't keep too many extras around.
Finally, Opening Night is here, although it's Opening Morning for you. The game is at 11 a.m. Thursday on Versus and WCCO.
Marek Zidlicky didn't practice today. A shift or two after his goal the other night, we didn't see him again. I figured it was just because the Wild was playing eight defensemen and with the game starting to become one-sided, Richards just wanted to sit Zidlicky, who's been hampered by a charley horse. Turns out he has a groin injury. Richards said he's questionable for tomorrow, but Zidlicky said he wants to play and "we'll see."
Guillaume Latendresse did practice today on the fourth line with Kyle Brodziak. His "groins are great," said Richards, so Latendresse will likely play with Wellman or Brad Staubitz getting the nod on the right side. Falk should be in the lineup. If Zidlicky can't play, Clayton Stoner will.
Lots of interesting stuff at the skate:
-- Wellman was used as a guinea pig on the back board after practice. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw him lying against the wall with paramedics, doctors and trainers around him. But turns out they were just doing a test run if God forbid something happens to one of the players in these two games.
-- Cal Clutterbuck was miked up in practice today for a future show on NHL Network. Apparently a lot will have to be sliced on the cutting room floor. Clutter's got a potty mouth :)
-- Dennis Endras showed today as emergency goalie and he looked quick with good technique. He said his goal is to make the Wild next year.
-- I just saw Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr in the lobby meeting with 2009 sixth-round pick Jere Sallinen. When in Rome, ...
So can the Wild just turn the switch from a below-average training camp at least in terms of wins and losses to above average? They better, as I'll write in Thursday's newspaper. They cannot afford another slow start. Coincidentally, awful starts destroyed the seasons of both Carolina and Minnesota last year.
That's it for me for now. I'll update blog and Twitter later when we see if Kassian or Bagnall cleared waivers or if the Wild does anything. Rosters must be submitted at 2 p.m.
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