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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Posts about Wild news

Links to today's Star Tribune Wild-Avs coverage AND a fun Russo-Dater Podcast

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 15, 2014 - 10:55 AM

UPDATED FROM PRACTICE:

FORWARD LINES

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Matt Moulson-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Nino Niederreiter
Stephane Veilleux-Erik Haula-Cody McCormick
 

DEFENSE PAIRINGS


Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella-Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner-Nate Prosser
 

GOALTENDERS
 

Ilya Bryzgalov

Darcy Kuemper
John Curry

Extra forwards: Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, Jake Dowell

Extra defensemen: Jon Blum, Keith Ballard.

Injuries: Kuemper (upper body), Ballard (groin) and G Josh Harding (MS) are day-to-day. LW Mike Rupp is suspended for Games 1-3. G Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) and LW Jason Zucker (quad) are out.

The Wild practices at 10:30 a.m. today, so I'll be back later with a fresher, newer blog. But, here's some morning/afternoon reading AND listening for you.

Today's Star Tribune coverage (click the links):

Wild finishes strong after desert summit conducted by leaders Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter

A year later (thanks to Dustin Brown), Jason Pominville gives Wild an added playoff weapon

Very funny notebook lead thanks to good sport/good guy Mark Parrish. Six years later, Parrish is on Wild payroll no more + more Mikael Granlund/Erik Haula talk and the Wild changing its travel schedule so it can practice in the high altitude of Denver tomorrow.

NHL playoff capsules, by Kent Youngblood

And, my predictions (scrutinize away because I may have tossed in a crazy upset or two). As for my Wild prediction, I can 100 percent see the Wild winning this series, but I had to go with my head and eyes at least in the prediction department. I think it'll be a long, intense series, but it just seems to be Semyon Varlamov's year and these Colorado forwards are as deep as any team in the NHL (especially if the Avs get Matt Duchene back at some point). BUT, at some point, somebody's got to get to these Colorado defensemen. They're young and inexperienced and are bound to crack, especially with Tyson Barrie and Jan Hejda banged up. But, nobody's made it happen yet. Maybe the Wild can if its players get pucks deep and go to work on the forecheck. The Avs will try to make this an end-to-end series, a rush-for-rush series, and if the Wild get lured into that, I promise you, it won't be on the winning end).

LASTLY, this was a fun thing to do, but last night I did a podcast with the Denver Post's Adrian Dater. Here is the link to his site, and then you hit a subsequent link I think to get to iTunes (it's free). We break down the series, but also talk about Twitter, our industry, accountability as beat writers and some cool behind-the-scenes stories throughout the years. It's an hour or so, but if you get time, it's probably worth a listen.

Follow Adrian throughout the series on Twitter at @adater.

A reminder, I'll be doing a live chat on startribune.com Thursday (GAME DAY!!!) at 3 p.m. CT from the Pepsi Center in Denver.


LOCAL BROADCAST SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED FOR MINNESOTA WILD’S FIRST-ROUND SERIES VERSUS COLORADO AVALANCHE
 
    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild, along with FOX Sports North and FM 100.3 KFAN, today announced the local broadcast schedule for the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Wild takes on the Colorado Avalanche.
 
    FOX Sports North will broadcast the first four games, including a full hour pre-game show, as well as a 30-minute post-game show. All four games will also be available on FOX Sports Wisconsin. The broadcast schedule for Games 5, 6 and 7 is still TBA.
 
    KFAN will broadcast Wild Fanline following each playoff game. There will also be live, 90-minute pre-game shows for Game 1 (Sak’s Sports Bar in Vadnais Heights), Game 2 (Jimmy’s Food and Drink in Vadnais Heights) and Game 4 (Wild pre-game party, outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center). Dan Barriero will be live from the Game 3 pre-game party from 3-6 p.m. Pre-game shows are to be determined for Games 5, 6 and 7. KFAN will also air a 30-minute “Wild Weekly” each Wednesday at 7 p.m. throughout the playoffs. Paul Allen will do his 9 to noon show in the Wild penalty box for Game 3.
 
    A limited number of single-game tickets remain for each of the three home games in the First Round, and can be purchased at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office and TicketMaster. The Wild will host a pre-game party outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center for both Game 3 and Game 4. The Game 3 party will begin at 4 p.m., while the Game 4 party will start at 5 p.m.
 
Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoffs Local Broadcast Schedule (all times central)
Game 1 – Thur., 4/17, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 2 – Sat., 4/19, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 3 – Mon., 4/21, Colorado at Minnesota, 6:00 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 4 – Thur., 4/24, Colorado at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 5 – Sat., 4/26, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 6 – Mon., 4/28, Colorado at Minnesota, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 7 – Wed., 4/30, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
 
 

Wild, NHL playoff series schedules

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 13, 2014 - 7:02 PM

Local TV announced soon, all times in Eastern Time

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Date         TIME (ET)        #1 Colorado vs. #4 Minnesota        Networks
Thursday, April 17        9:30 p.m.        Minnesota at Colorado                CNBC, TSN
Saturday, April 19        9:30 p.m.        Minnesota at Colorado                NBC Sports Network, TSN
Monday, April 21        7 p.m.                Colorado at Minnesota                NHL Network U.S., TSN      
Thursday, April 24        9:30 p.m.        Colorado at Minnesota                CNBC, TSN2
*Saturday, April 26        TBD                Minnesota at Colorado                TSN
*Monday, April 28        TBD                Colorado at Minnesota                TSN        
*Wednesday, April 30        TBD                Minnesota at Colorado                TSN    

Date        TIME (ET)        #2 St. Louis vs. #3 Chicago        Networks                
Thursday, April 17        8 p.m.                Chicago at St. Louis                NBC Sports Network, CBC
Saturday, April 19        3 p.m.                Chicago at St. Louis                NBC, CBC
Monday, April 21        8:30 p.m.        St. Louis at Chicago                CNBC, CBC
Wednesday, April 23        9:30 p.m.        St. Louis at Chicago                NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Friday, April 25                8 p.m.                Chicago at St. Louis                NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Sunday, April 27        3 p.m.                St. Louis at Chicago                NBC, CBC
*Tuesday, April 29        TBD                Chicago at St. Louis                CBC

Date        TIME (ET)        #1 Anaheim vs. #4 Dallas        Networks        
Wednesday, April 16        10 p.m.                Dallas at Anaheim                NBC Sports Network, TSN
Friday, April 18                10 p.m.                Dallas at Anaheim                NBC Sports Network, TSN
Monday, April 21        9:30 p.m.        Anaheim at Dallas                NBC Sports Network, TSN
Wednesday, April 23        8 p.m.                Anaheim at Dallas                CNBC, TSN
*Friday, April 25         10:30 p.m.        Dallas at Anaheim                NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Sunday, April 27        TBD                Anaheim at Dallas                TSN
*Tuesday, April 29        TBD                Dallas at Anaheim                TSN

Date        TIME (ET)        #2 San Jose vs. #3 Los Angeles         Networks        
Thursday, April 17        10:30 p.m.        Los Angeles at San Jose                       NBC Sports Network, CBC
Sunday, April 20                10 p.m.                Los Angeles at San Jose                       NBC Sports Network, CBC
Tuesday, April 22        10 p.m.                San Jose at Los Angeles         NBC Sports Network, CBC
Thursday, April 24         10:30 p.m.        San Jose at Los Angeles                       NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Saturday, April 26        TBD                Los Angeles at San Jose                       NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Monday, April 28        TBD                San Jose at Los Angeles                       CBC
*Wednesday, April 30        TBD                Los Angeles at San Jose                       CBC


EASTERN CONFERENCE

Date         TIME (ET)        #1 Boston vs. #4 Detroit        Networks
Friday, April 18                7:30 p.m.        Detroit at Boston                NBC Sports Network, TSN
Sunday, April 20                3 p.m.                Detroit at Boston                 NBC, TSN
Tuesday, April 22        7:30 p.m.        Boston at Detroit                NBC Sports Network, TSN
Thursday, April 24        8 p.m.                Boston at Detroit                NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Saturday, April 26        3 p.m.                Detroit at Boston                NBC, TSN
*Monday, April 28        TBD                Boston at Detroit                TSN
*Wednesday, April 30        TBD                Detroit at Boston                TSN

Date        TIME (ET)        #2 Tampa Bay vs. #3 Montreal        Networks                
Wednesday, April 16        7 p.m.                Montreal at Tampa Bay                CNBC, CBC, RDS
Friday, April 18                7 p.m.                Montreal at Tampa Bay                CNBC, CBC, RDS
Sunday, April 20                7 p.m.                Tampa Bay at Montreal                CBC, RDS, NBC Sports Network
Tuesday, April 22        7 p.m.                Tampa Bay at Montreal                CBC, RDS, NHL Network U.S.
*Thursday, April 24        7 p.m.                Montreal at Tampa Bay                 CNBC, CBC, RDS
*Sunday, April 27        TBD                Tampa Bay at Montreal                CBC, RDS, NBC Sports Network
*Tuesday, April 29        TBD                Montreal at Tampa Bay                CBC, RDS

Date        TIME (ET)        #1 Pittsburgh vs. #4 Columbus        Networks        
Wednesday, April 16        7:30 p.m.        Columbus at Pittsburgh                NBC Sports Network, CBC
Saturday, April 19        7 p.m.                Columbus at Pittsburgh                NBC Sports Network, CBC
Monday, April 21        7 p.m.                Pittsburgh at Columbus                NBC Sports Network, CBC
Wednesday, April 23        7 p.m.                Pittsburgh at Columbus                NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Saturday, April 26         TBD                Columbus at Pittsburgh                CBC
*Monday, April 28        TBD                Pittsburgh at Columbus                CBC
*Wednesday, April 30        TBD                Columbus at Pittsburgh                CBC

Date        TIME (ET)        #2 NY Rangers vs. #3 Philadelphia        Networks        
Thursday, April 17        7 p.m.                Philadelphia at NY Rangers               CNBC, TSN
Sunday, April 20                Noon                Philadelphia at NY Rangers               NBC, TSN
Tuesday, April 22        8 p.m.                NY Rangers at Philadelphia              CNBC, TSN
Friday, April 25                 7 p.m.                NY Rangers at Philadelphia        CNBC, TSN
*Sunday, April 27        Noon                Philadelphia at NY Rangers               NBC, TSN
*Tuesday, April 29        TBD                NY Rangers at Philadelphia               TSN
*Wednesday, April 30        TBD                Philadelphia at NY Rangers               TSN

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

Wild to play Colorado in first round of playoffs

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 13, 2014 - 1:57 PM

For the third time in franchise history, the Wild will face the Colorado Avalanche in the postseason.

The Avalanche won the Central Division this afternoon thanks to the plummeting St. Louis Blues’ home loss against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wild-Avs series is expected to start in Denver on Thursday.

The Avs, who are 8-1-1 in their past 10 and play a meaningless game tonight at Anaheim, has gone from 29th place to a division championship in one year with Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy in his first year as coach.

The Wild went 1-3-1 against the Avalanche this season. Since March 5, 2006, the Wild is 32-14-6 against Colorado and 13-3-3 in its past 19 in Denver.

But the Avs are a different team. Semyon Varlamov, a potential Vezina winner, just broke Roy’s single-season record with 41 wins. Guaranteed Calder winner Nathan MacKinnon, 18, is already one of the most threatening players in the West. Gabriel Landeskog is a rock-solid two-way forward, as is Ryan O’Reilly.. Bloomington’s Erik Johnson has had a terrific season on the blue line.

The Avs average the fourth-most goals per game in the NHL (3.00), although they rank 14th defensively (2.63 goals against per game).

In 2003, the Wild rallied from 3-1 down to beat Colorado in the first round. Andrew Brunette scored the most famous goal in franchise history and sent Roy into retirement by scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime. In 2008, after the Wild won the Northwest Division, Jose Theodore and the Avs stoned the Wild in six games.

“They are completely different than what they were last year,” said Jason Pominville. “They only added a couple players here or there, but their coaching staff must have done a great job there. They’re just playing with really, really good confidence. They’ve got a lot of skill up front that can make you pay.”

Added Ryan Suter on playing in Denver, “It’s a tough place to play with the altitude. If you get caught out there, that really hurts you. We enjoy playing there though. It is a tough building to play with good atmosphere, but we’ve had success there.”

Wild to face Colorado or St. Louis in first round of the playoffs

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 13, 2014 - 12:01 AM

The Anaheim Ducks clinched the Western Conference a second ago. That means the division winner with the second-best record will be Colorado or St. Louis.

That means the Wild, the top wildcard team in the West, will face one of those teams in the first round of the playoffs this week.

Sunday's scenarios:

The Blues face Detroit at home at 11:30 a.m. CT. The Ducks host Colorado at 7 p.m. CT. The Wild hosts Nashville at 7 p.m. CT

- If St. Louis loses in regulation to Detroit, the Wild plays Colorado.

- If St. Louis gets a point vs. Detroit, Colorado must get a point at Anaheim to play the Wild, or the Wild plays St. Louis.

- If St. Louis beats Detroit, Colorado must beat Anaheim to play the Wild, or the Wild plays St. Louis.

Playoff series schedules will be released Sunday night. I believe the Wild will open Thursday because are there are arena conflicts in both Colorado and St. Louis on Wednesday.

Talk to you Sunday morning after the morning skates. I'll also be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission.

Mike Rupp suspended four games by the NHL

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: April 11, 2014 - 3:05 PM

Wild veteran left wing Mike Rupp has been suspended four games -- the final regular-season game Sunday against Nashville and three playoff games -- for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie on Thursday night. He forfeits $7,692.31 in salary.

Rupp was assessed a match penalty midway through the second period for "attempt to injure." Replays showed Oshie had given up the puck when Rupp came by with what the league considers a classic head pick. Rupp's left shoulder hit Oshie's head with that being the principle point of contract -- the chief criteria for an illegal check to the head. Basically, for Rupp to make this hit, the puck needs to be on Oshie's stick and there needs to be full body contact.

Here is video of the league explaining its decision.

Rupp was an easy target for the league to send a message on because like I said last night, Rupp was playing probably his final regular-season game, his 13th of the season. It is unlikely the Wild plans to play Rupp in the playoffs considering he hadn't played since Feb. 1 and played four games since Dec. 31.

If Rupp can't find a job this summer, it'll be a shame if that was the final play of what has been a good career.

This was Rupp's first suspension by the NHL and although he has long been a tough customer, he has done it in a mostly honest fashion. Knowing Rupp, I don't believe he intended to injure Oshie. But he undoubedly messed up. Oshie left the game hurt and isn't playing tonight in Dallas.

Former Wild center Wes Walz sent out a couple tweets (see below) that ticked off Blues fans and Ken Hitchcock today, but the one point he makes that is accurate? No chance Rupp plays last night if the Blues didn't run around last game taking runs as Mikael Granlund, Jared Spurgeon and Darcy Kuemper. It was a continuation of a trend in many Wild games in St. Louis in recent years. This is the story on the St. Louis Dispatch web site that ran the morning of the game in St. Louis a few weeks ago. The Blues tried to send Minnesota a message, the Wild was physically outplayed that game in St. Louis, so the Wild responded by putting Rupp in during the rematch to protect its players and supply muscle. No chance the Wild wanted Rupp to take off Oshie's head, but last game's physicality by St. Louis is why the Wild felt the need to play Rupp yesterday.

Disagree all you want, but that's the facts.

By the way, if the Avalanche beats San Jose tonight and St. Louis loses in regulation at Dallas, Colorado would win the Central and the Wild's first-round opponent would be Anaheim or Colorado. Right now, the first-round opponent can be Anaheim, St. Louis or Colorado.

Lastly, ...

The American Hockey League announced today that Jake Dowell of the Iowa Wild has been named the 2013-14 winner of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.

The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

Dowell has served as captain of the Wild during the team’s first season in Iowa while also dealing with personal tragedy. Dowell’s father, John, passed away in February after a lengthy battle with Huntington’s disease, a debilitating genetic neurological disorder which also affects his older brother, Luke. Dowell’s openness about his family’s fight with Huntington’s disease and his advocacy for a cure has brought national awareness to the cause, while Dowell and his Wild teammates have taken part in charity drives and fundraisers for research.

A native of Eau Claire, Wis., Dowell has remained a leader on the ice in Des Moines throughout his trying season, appearing in 54 games with Iowa as well as one with the Wild’s NHL affiliate in Minnesota, with whom he is currently on recall. The seventh-year pro out of the University of Wisconsin has played 157 career games in the NHL with Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota, along with 302 career AHL contests with Iowa, Houston, Rockford and Norfolk. He was originally drafted by the Blackhawks in 2004.

This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1978, honors the late Fred T. Hunt, a long-time contributor to the league who won three Calder Cup championships as a player and three more as a general manager during a career spent primarily with the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Previous winners of the award include Ross Yates (1983), Glenn Merkosky (1987, ’91), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Murray Eaves (’89, ’90), John Anderson (1992), Tim Tookey (1993), Ken Gernander (1996, 2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2000), Mike Keane (2007), Ajay Baines (2009), Casey Borer (2010), Bryan Helmer (2011), Chris Minard (2012) and Brandon Davidson (2013).

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