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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Reaction to J.P. Parise's passing; Darcy Kuemper placed on injured reserve

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: January 8, 2015 - 1:49 PM

First and foremost, my heartfelt condolences to the entire Parise family and all of J.P.’s friends that are hurting today. He’ll be incredibly missed and there will be a void not seeing him around the rink anymore.

Here is J.P.’s obituary on startribune.com/wild, and it’s something we have been updating throughout the day.

In a statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “The National Hockey League family mourns the passing and cherishes the memory of J.P. Parise. Especially in his adopted home state of Minnesota, J.P. was a consummate player, teacher and administrator in the game. The Parise name has been prominent in Minnesota hockey since the 1960s, and J.P.'s commitment and passion for the NHL lives on through his son, Zach. The NHL sends heartfelt condolences to J.P.'s family, to his friends, to the Minnesota Wild organization and to all the organizations J.P. represented with such passion.”

The Wild plans to pay a tribute to J.P. tonight before its game against the Chicago Blackhawks. I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show to talk about J.P. as well.

I’ll also be doing another Podcast at 3 p.m. live on souhanunfiltered.com with columnist Jim Souhan.

I'll provide details of J.P.'s funeral when it's released. I know the Wild would love to have the entire team there like it did for Suter. The team does have a planned day off Monday in Pittsburgh and an off-day next Wednesday in Buffalo.

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter got a text from Zach last night that his dad had passed. Suter was emotional this morning when talking about the loss of J.P. and how it’s affecting Zach.

“It’s a terrible thing to happen to a good person. Us as a team, we feel for Zach,” said Suter, before referring to the loss of his own dad, Bob, in September. “You know how hard it is having to go through that for me, so for us, I can’t imagine what he’s going through right now. He’s a good person and it’s too bad that he’s gone.”

Suter said that a week or two ago, he and Zach talked about how blessed they were that they signed in Minnesota because it allowed them to spend more time with their dads and for their dad to be able to watch them play hockey.

“We actually talked about that probably two weeks ago when he knew his dad wasn’t doing that well,” Suter said. “We said at least the good thing is that we got to be here, just think if we would have signed other places, they wouldn’t have got to come to as many games as they did get a chance to come to. We actually talked about that and looking back that’s the best thing that’s happened to me.”

Suter said it helped him “to get back here with my teammates and not have to think about what had happened. Your family members are all grieving and it’s so sad around your house, so when you come in here, it’s a nice break from that. Hopefully we can get back here soon so we can get some normalcy back.”

Some have speculated that as the day goes on, maybe Parise will want to play tonight. However, he is on non-roster status right now, so if he did want to play, the Wild would have to make a roster move by 4 p.m. The Wild does not anticipate he will play.

Right now they’re at 23 players with the callups of Jon Blum and Jordan Schroeder. John Curry was also recalled and Darcy Kuemper was placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury. Stu Bickel was placed on waivers for the purposes of sending him down to the minors.

More on this in a bit.

Some more reaction to JP:

Coach Mike Yeo talked about the experience of having JP come on his own personal father-son trip last year, something Suter arranged and GM Chuck Fletcher allowed because he had never been on one before. Thank goodness this happened because JP was too sick to go on the Wild’s father-son trip this season.

J.P. was allowed to go into the pregame meetings and the coach’s office as they planned practices, watched video and gameplanned games.

Yeo said J.P. talked about how much the game has changed, but “the camaraderie, the brotherhood,” was the same.

“The one that I remember particular is he was talking about how involved coaching was now and all the things that go into it,” Yeo said. “He was kind of joking how when he was playing, the coach would come in and say, ‘Get ahead, stay ahead and don’t tire.’ (laughing). And at the same time, there’s something great about that simplicity. So we used that line that night in LA and we won that game.”

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews knew J.P. Parise well from his days at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Parise was the hockey director there at the time.

Said Toews, “It’s a tough loss for the family that I was a part of as a young kid, the Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey family, he’s very influential to the young hockey players there and to myself and my family, it made things very easy and very comfortable for myself and my brother when we played hockey there. I think everyone knows his history and the game and what he means to hockey in Minnesota. It’s a tough loss for everybody, and our thoughts and condolences go out to Zach and his family.

“He had so many great stories and one-liners and just advice he’d give to the young guys in high school there. If you were ever going through a tough time or you weren’t playing well or you were having a tough time being away from home, he was always seem to have a way to pick you up. He had an amazing positive effect on myself and a lot of other young hockey players at Shattuck, so it meant a lot to our careers.”

Asked if he sees a lot of J.P. in Zach, Toews said, “The work ethic for sure, the personality, the love of the game, the commitment to being a part of the game and being appreciative of what it gives you. Zach always understood that. J.P. was a very selfless person, and you see that in the way Zach carries himself on and off the ice as a player. I’m sure it’s a tough time for him and his family right now.”

To more trivial things, the hockey team:

Kuemper is indeed hurt. He’s got a lower body injury, Yeo said. “I didn’t think it was much yesterday, but I think it got a little bit worse during practice. We don’t think he’ll be available for the next week or so.”

Yeo indicated it was an injury that was aggravated.

Chuck Fletcher is looking for a goalie in the trade market. Every time I have seen him today, his phone is pressed up against his ear. I wrote about that in today’s paper here and I’ll write more about it in tomorrow’s.

But right now, the cage belongs to Niklas Backstrom.

“Backy typically, the more he’s played the better he’s played,” Yeo said. “And if I know him, then I know that he’s looking at this as an opportunity. Not only for himself, but to help the team here. He’s a veteran guy. I think that composure can bode well for us, but again, as much as anything, I like that he’s going to want this opportunity and I think our guys are going to play hard in front of him.”

Lines:

Zucker-Koivu-Pominville

Vanek-Haula-Schroeder (reunion of all-Gophers line earlier this year)

Niederreiter-Coyle-Fontaine

Cooke-Brodziak-Carter

D Pairs with Marco Scandella out with what Yeo thinks is a minor upper-body injury (he’s feeling better today):

Suter-Spurgeon

Brodin-Folin

Falk-Blum

Schroeder and Blum took a car service up yesterday afternoon, but Curry didn’t get the call til late and arrived at 2:30 a.m.

Blum said, “Right now, it’s not the best of times for this team. I just want to come up here and help this team win and play a simple game. It’s not the best time, but it’s always good to be in the NHL. I’ve played games here, so it’ll be good test with a run of games coming up against good teams.”

Schroeder said he wants to “bring some energy and hopefully a spark, try to be positive with chatter on the bench and make things happen out there.”

Yeo just wants the Wild to calm the heck down and stop being so depressed. He feels a cause of the problems lately is every game “we’re going out there and we’re trying to make the playoffs that game.”

Well, that’s impossible and there’s more than half a season left, he said. So he wants the team to narrow its focus, start concentrating on good starts in games (Blackhawks have given up a lot of early goals lately), carry momentum in games, get it back if they lose it and play complete 60 minutes. If they do that day in and day out, he said, bring the work ethic and a good attitude, that’s how they’ll make the playoffs.

Nate Prosser skated today, but he’s not ready to play, Yeo said.

Wild coach Mike Yeo melts down in practice, storms off the ice early

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: January 7, 2015 - 4:19 PM

I always say the most interesting team to cover is one in crisis mode, and the Wild, with 13 losses in the past 20 games and eight in the past 10, has officially hit that juncture of the season.

Last year’s annual winter crisis magically turned around when the calendar turned from 2013 to 2014. This year’s crisis is only deepening with the calendar turn. After beating Toronto last Friday, the Wild responded by getting humiliated in Dallas and then losing last night’s game against the San Jose Sharks in overtime despite a better effort.

Coach Mike Yeo wanted the Wild to respond to the loss though with a great practice in preparation for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that has ousted the Wild in the past two postseasons.

Instead, Yeo stopped practice early on, uncharacteristically pulled the team to the far end of the rink away from the ink-stained wretches and lit into his group demanding more effort and execution.

The yuck continued. Moments after captain Mikko Koivu was bumped to the ice and had trouble getting to the feet, the Wild captain, whom I’ve noticed off the rink has been playing through a lower-body injury the past week, slowly got up, skated to the bench, cracked his stick against the glass, then chopped it in half as he marched down the runway angrily.

Yeo immediately had the players line the width of the ice on the penalty-box side and skated them so hard without pucks, I heard Herb Brooks in my head yelling, “Again.”

Then, the fun began. Yeo gathered the team around him by the referee’s crease, slammed his stick on the ice and unleashed a fury during an expletive-laced tirade that had to do with how bad the team is playing and then they have the audacity to show up and “practice like this!” He lit into them for about 60 seconds, screaming his head off.

He then took an about-face, had a couple words with assistant coach Andrew Brunette, skated toward the visiting bench, slammed his own stick hard against the glass, skated toward the Wild bench and stormed off the ice. At that point, assistant GM Brent Flahr and director of hockey administration, who were watching from the stands, left, too. GM Chuck Fletcher was not at practice, nor was owner Craig Leipold, who planned to attend but didn’t.

Fletcher has declined an interview request.

The rest of practice was run by the assistant coaches. Assistant coach Rick Wilson had a few one-on-ones with veterans like Matt Cooke and Thomas Vanek.

“I think Yeozie finally lost it here,” Vanek said afterward. “He’s been pretty good with us, staying upbeat. We played well last night. It’s not good when you lose a hockey game. That was his message. He didn’t like how some of us practiced and came out, so those things happen.”

Asked if he’s ever seen a coach melt down like that, Vanek laughed and said, “Yeah, I played for Lindy [Ruff in Buffalo] for a long time, so I’ve seen it before. [Yeo’s] frustrated just as is many guys in here, so I think we’ll be OK. I think it was maybe needed. We had a terrible game in Dallas. I thought we responded pretty well. We’ll respond again tomorrow and play hard.

Vanek said Yeo’s “been great. There’s only so much you can say before you’ll kind of snap. I think it’s good. I think these guys will, I think we’ll respond just fine.”

Here is video of the beginning of Yeo’s post-practice press scrum.

On why he melted down, “We weren’t good enough. And we’re not in a position where we can come in and be let alone decent in practice, bad at practice. I’m not going to accept that.”

Asked if he’s worried that if the team doesn’t respond this time (remember he did something very similar at the start of a practice in Arizona last month) that he has lost the team, Yeo said, “No. I’m not worried about that. I told you I’m not going to accept that. I’m not going to accept guys – we played for the most part a good game last game. We lost the game. We come to the rink today and what are we going to have a practice like that? That’s not good enough. I know one thing – we can hang our heads, we can feel sorry for ourselves, we can point fingers, we can do whatever we want. But those types of things are not the types of things that winners do and those types of things do not help you get out of something like this. I know what I’m going to control and I’m going to make sure that I bring it.”

Part of me wondered how orchestrated this was when today’s stories were all about the goalies and he wanted to cram into his team that it’s everybody, not just Darcy Kuemper.

 “That’s everything that we’re in right now,” Yeo said. “We’re in a difficult spot and we’ve got a tough road ahead of ourselves. We might have guys out of the lineup and that’s fine. But the one thing you can always control is your work ethic and your attitude and everything else follows suit after that.”

“We played a crappy game in Dallas and aside from that I’ve been happy for the most part with our games post Christmas. Do we just accept that hey we got a point? We lost the game but we played well? No. We can’t. We have to be better. The way we were practicing today, we weren’t practicing with the purpose of getting better. We could’ve just went through the practice and we might’ve been fine tomorrow, but that’s not the attitude that we need as a team right now. We need the attitude that we can’t just accept—and it’s going to be hard. We might play well again and we might lose. I don’t know. But whatever it is, every day we come back to the rink and we’ve got to find a way to be better.”

Darcy Kuemper left practice today with illness or injury. Two days in a row now Kuemper managed not to talk to the media, including after last night’s game.

Yeo said it’s something minor and then subtly inserted, “as far as I’m concerned.” I haven’t gotten an update yet on that, but the pressure is getting to Kuemper, that's very clear, and is clearly trying to avoid us the past few days.

On Koivu, Yeo said, “He left hurt. I don’t have an update on that but I did see that he returned at the end.”

He did, but then he left again.

On Marco Scandella, Yeo said, “Upper body injury and you can count him out for the game tomorrow.”

With all these roster uncertainties, I'd assume we'll see some callups.

On Zach Parise, Yeo said, “I’m just giving him space right now.”

I’d think it’s doubtful he plays tomorrow. As of now, J.P. was hanging on, but he is incommunicative and it’s not good as he lays in hospice with family and friends at his side. I’ll update once it is official through the family or team. This is one story I’m not willing to “pursue” and be first on.

More quotes:

Kyle Brodziak:

On Yeo: “Clearly not happy with us, deservedly so. We come out, have a pretty poor practice, execution’s not there, our heads weren’t in it, it was deserving.”

Frustration: “It’s definitely high, but I think coming to the rink, practice is a step that we need to do and we’ve got to make sure that whenever we get the opportunities to try to get better, we have to take advantage of it.”

Needed? “I hope so. Hopefully, you hate to think it takes something like that to wake us up, but maybe that’s what’s needed. We just have to make sure we come ready to do what we need to do tomorrow.”

Has he seen such a meltdown: “I think everybody’s seen it at some point in their career. You go through a lot of highs and lows. It was deserving though. The group wasn’t ready today.”

Jason Zucker:

“Bottom line is we can’t come out and have a bad day of practice or a bad morning skate or whatever it is. We can’t afford that right now. That’s just the message he’s trying to get across right now. It just shows that he’s passionate about this group and what we can do, and if we’re not living up to that, he has every right to be upset about it.”

Does this team still believe in Yeo? “I know I do, and I guarantee I speak for every guy in this room. It’s a tough thing. Every team’s going to go through tough stretches, some longer than others and you hope to find a way to get out of them sooner rather than later. Coach Yeo has done a good job. The rest of the coaching staff has done a great job of making sure we’re buying into the system and doing what we need to do. The system works. We’ve seen it work numerous times a lot. Right now is a tough time, we’ve got to stick together and find a way to get out of it.”

Niklas Backstrom

Has he seen something like Yeo’s meltdown: “It’s tough to remember. But I’ve been a hockey player all my life. Probably not.”

How does the team respond? “Even without that, we know we can play a lot better, everyone in this locker room. There are a couple guys who are happy with their game, but there are a lot of players, myself included that want to be better. When things don’t go well for a team, it’s always easy to look left or right for excuses. But like Jacques Lemaire always use to say, just worry about yourself and that I think is for every player here – just get the best game out of yourself. For me, it’s just about worrying about making sure I can play at the level I can play at.”

Did he feel Yeo would soon implode? “I don’t know if you sense anything coming. But for sure when you look at the past couple months, things haven’t really gone well here. Things haven’t gone our way so there’s a lot of pressure on everyone. Practice wasn’t as sharp as it should be at this point of the season. We didn’t do the right things so for sure you understand the frustration. As players, we have to make sure we’re ready every time we go out there to help ourselves as players and help the team to get better. We have to make sure when we step on the ice – we’re fortunate to play in the nhl – so every time you step on the ice you have to get better and work for the team.”

Lastly, as of this morning, I was entirely confident that Yeo’s job was completely safe. According to sources, Fletcher is actively looking for a goaltender and that’s where the Wild believes most of its problems lay right now.

We’ll see if Yeo’s meltdown changes his personal situation. The team best respond, I’d think.

I'll be on KFAN in a second, KFAN Thursday morning and Fox Sports North Thursday night.

Reeling Wild has a serious, serious goaltending problem

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 7, 2015 - 9:57 AM

First and foremost, all my thoughts tonight are with J.P. Parise, Zach and the rest of the Parise family and all of J.P.’s friends who are so deeply affected tonight.

One of the most amazing things I witnessed tonight was Wild radio analyst Tom Reid, J.P.’s close, close friend, with tears in his eyes and heartbreak in his voice soldier on tonight and somehow call this game. This man was absolutely broken and still managed to get through.

As hard as it was to write Saturday’s game story and postgame blog just minutes after my emotional interview with Zach and hear him open up about what he and his family and his poor dad is going through, it was tougher tonight to concentrate knowing Parise wasn’t here and at his dad’s side.

“This was kind of our thing,” I kept hearing Parise say. That was one of Parise’s most gripping lines from the article in Tuesday’s paper and a reference to how hockey was the bond he shares with his father.

So I can only imagine how difficult it had to be for all his friends and teammates to play tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Jason Pominville said Wild teammates were “thinking about him quite a bit” and that “most of the talk” before the game “was about Zach. It’s just tough to see something like this hapcpening to a teammate, a friend and big part of this team.”

“A lot of guys were a little down and thinking about what was going on,” said Pominville, who added that they were able to pull together and put forth a good effort.

Parise called buddy Ryan Suter before the game to let him know what was going on.

“For him to be going through what he’s going through is just awful. I couldn’t even imagine what he’s going through and what he has been going through. To play through it says a lot about who he is and his dad would be proud of him. Zach’s a professional and it’s just too bad the circumstances right now.

“Everyone cares about each other in here. Life is so much bigger than hockey. He definitely made the right decision to be with his family and we’re all thinking about him.”

The Wild tried to go on without him, but it fell 4-3 in overtime – the fourth overtime loss in six home games – because of once again poor goaltending.

The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon 2:01 apart in the first period.

Goalie Alex Stalock, the St. Paul native and former Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog, came out of his net to play the puck, Stalock froze, Pominville got his stick on it and the puck deflected right to Zucker to the left of the near post. Zucker deked and scored over Stalock’s blocker.

A few shifts later, a pinching Spurgeon made it 2-0 when Zucker set him up in the right circle for his fifth goal and second in three games.

Kuemper, coming off a fifth game since Nov. 13 in which he was chased early from the Wild net, was sharp early. He stopped all eight San Jose shots he saw in the first period, and then was good again in the second until some bad luck cost the Wild.

In the same end but opposite side of where Brent Seabrook’s line change dump-in nailed a stanchion and popped out to the slot for Patrick Kane to stick a dagger in the Wild’s season last playoff, Brent Burns, the former Wild defenseman, perfectly placed a dump-in off the stanchion.

As Kuemper came out to play the puck, the puck ricocheted right into the slot with no Wild players in the vicinity. Melker Karlsson was, however, and the 24-year-old Swedish free-agent acquisition scored his third goal in the past three games by slipping a backhander underneath Kuemper.

In the third, Joe Pavelski tied the score off a faceoff. Just 74 seconds later, Kuemper kicked a weird hop off a Tommy Wingels shot past Suter and right back to Wingels for the go-ahead goal.

Charlie Coyle set up Zucker (two goals, one assist, plus-3, eight shots, two hits) for the tying goal with 7:48 left, but in overtime, after Nino Niederreiter, Thomas Vanek, Jonas Brodin and Christian Folin got caught out on the ice a long time and trapped because of an icing (the new rule change where teams switch sides in OT to cause a long change and thus more fatigue and more goals is absolutely destroying the Wild), Kuemper somehow let in a 43-footer from atop the left circle right next to the left-wing boards to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who scored with 4.5 seconds left in regulation the night before in Winnipeg.

Yes, the guy who broke Dany Heatley’s shoulder, which kept the Wild from buying him out two summers ago, struck again!

Cue Suter: “I thought we competed hard. I thought we played well. I’m sure the last couple Kuemps would like to have back. That’s part of the game. We competed well. We have to continue to compete like that and the luck will change for sure.”

Asked to expand on the erratic goaltending (not just lately, but the past two months), Suter said, “It’s a team game. We’re going to stick together. He’s the future of this team and we have to stand with him. He’ll get out of it. He’ll come around and until he does we just have to play even harder.”

Coach Mike Yeo opened his presser by saying, “Most of the things about that game I liked. I liked our resiliency to battle back after the third goal, I liked our resiliency to kill that penalty late in the game (on Vanek) and even before the goal in overtime I thought we had control of the play there until the one shift in the defensive zone.”

Asked what he thought of the goaltending, Yeo said, “We’re not in a position where we can have anybody be below average and it always starts and ends with goaltending. It’s a tricky one trying to be sensitive to his confidence, but that goal in overtime can’t go in.”

Kuemper is 24, but he ranks 53rd in the NHL with a .902 save percentage. Niklas Backstrom ranks 60th with an .896. As many flaws as the Wild has right now, the team’s game began to fall apart when the goaltending did. It is hard to play if you’re confidence in your goalies wane.

Yeo said, “You try to be sensitive to confidence. I’ve never believed it’s a one-man show out there, but it does start with goaltending and it ends with goaltending. That’s just the reality of the position, that’s what you sign up for when you play. But we’re just not in a position where we can have anybody, regardless of whether it’s a goaltender or a centerman or a defenseman or a winger, we can’t have anybody playing below average games right now. We’ve got Granny out of the lineup, we have Zach out of the lineup, and at that point, guys need to elevate their games in every position. I thought collectively as a team we did a lot of things very well tonight, but whether it’s a goaltender or anybody else, you’ve got to make sure that you’re bringing your share to the party.”

Pressure’s on GM Chuck Fletcher here. Josh Harding’s not coming back. That’s obvious. Backstrom is likely unmovable. Kuemper can’t be sent to the minors without waivers, and he’d be claimed for sure.

So either you continue to ride this instability out and have it maybe cost you this season or you trade for a goalie and probably have to keep three on the active roster. And, how much of an asset can you really give up for said goalie when there’s no assurance a goalie saves your season? Even Yeo admitted in a different context after the game, “There’s a lot of points that we’re leaving out there right now, so that’s disappointing.”

But Yeo again made very clear his displeasure tonight was with Kuemper because when a reporter asked about others not playing well tonight, he replied, “We were good tonight,” and essentially wouldn’t allow the question.

“I cannot be disappointed with our game tonight. The one thing that I was unhappy with probably is we passed up some opportunities to shoot the puck when we were ahead (Vanek a gigantic culprit here, Pominville, etc.) and had a chance to attack and be a little more aggressive, but for the most part, we did a lot of things well.”

Yeo was obviously very happy with Zucker’s game after clearly not being ready to return during a tough first game back from the flu last game in Dallas. Tonight, he was a stud.

On his great game, Zucker said, “I don’t care. We need to win. That’s all I care about. It would have been really nice to get that second point.”

Also, bad news, but Marco Scandella was lost in the third period after three shifts because of an undisclosed injury. Yeo said he’d supply an update after Wednesday’s practice. Scandella was struck in the head by a puck in the second period, but Yeo didn't think it was that. I watched his three third-period shifts and he was checked hard into the glass by Freddie Hamilton on his last, but he played on.

Unbelievable, but my gigantic personality profile on Scandella was supposed to run Thursday. It’s been held multiple times because of his suspension, the team’s slump and now this. This morning, I told him it was coming and he jokingly told me that it just needs to run because every time it’s supposed to, “Something happens.”

I am the ultimate jinx.

Anyway, again, please keep the Parises in your thoughts and prayers.

This is, as J.P. Parise calls me, “Michel Rousseau” signing off. Yeah, J.P. refuses to accept that I’m Italian. “You’re a Frenchman,” he’d say. :(

Zach Parise will miss tonight's Wild game to be at his father's side

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: January 6, 2015 - 6:38 PM

Zach Parise will miss tonight's Wild game against the San Jose Sharks to be with his dad. J.P. Parise is at his Twin Cities home with his family at his side in hospice care.

I wrote yesterday about the burden Zach has been playing with.

In a statement, "the Wild supports his decision to be with his family as his dad, J.P., battles lung cancer and asks that their privacy be respected. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Parise family during this difficult time."

Heartbreaking.

My best to the entire Parise family.

Prosser latest sick Wild player heading into San Jose game

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 6, 2015 - 1:18 PM

Darcy Kuemper vs., I’m assuming, Alex Stalock tonight at Xcel Energy Center.

If Stalock starts, it’ll be the former UMD Bulldog’s first career start in his home city. He made 18 saves in his first career start against the Wild last month in San Jose.

If Antti Niemi starts, it’ll be a second of back-to-back for him after last night’s last-second Sharks win at Winnipeg. That win put the Wild seven back from a playoff spot, but at least the Jets didn’t get a point, too.

Nate Prosser is the latest sick Wild player. I think I mentioned the other day how all the latest stomach bug guys sit all around each other in the locker room (both goalies, Sutter, Zucker, etc.). Well, Prosser’s right there, too.

“Hopefully that’s where it ends,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s made its way through a lot of different people. I keep saying, ‘it’s his turn.’ But I say that jokingly. I’d like for it to end.

“You have to overcome these things. But it seems like it always happens on a game day. You prepare, you practice the day before, you have your lines or your pairings set and then for whatever reason a game day always seems to be the time when it hits us.”

Justin Falk has been recalled presumably to play for Prosser, who was playing the left side. If Falk sits, Stu Bickel would play.

Speaking of Bickel, he sprinkled the infield with an instigator 10-minute misconduct, aggressor for trying to hit Jason Demers when the fight was over and another game misconduct the other night in Dallas. I couldn’t figure out what the game was for. I confirmed that the game misconduct was for getting into a second fight at the same time he was in another.

So, not only did Trevor Daley not get a third-man in, Bickel was the one penalized for Daley holding his arms back as he got punched by Demers. Hard to get calls that wrong, but hey, it was mayhem on the ice.

Kuemper has been pulled five times since Nov. 13. Yeo will come back with him tonight and said, “Let’s write the Dallas game off completely. Aside from that, I think that he’s been very good [post-Christmas].”

Yeo means the whole team stunk in front of Kuemper on Saturday, so he’s not pinning that loss on Kuemper’s play.

I’m doing my game notebook on Alex Tuch for tomorrow’s paper. I talked to Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr about the 2014 first-round pick and analyst Pierre McGuire, who says he watched every game of the world juniors and knows his game well.

Lastly, Clayton Stoner, the Wild draft pick who signed a four-year, $13 million deal with Anaheim July 1, took some potshots at the Wild in an Orange County Register article here.

“I didn’t like the way it was run in Minnesota,” Stoner said. “They kind of just give one defenseman all the minutes and the rest suffer. And I wasn’t happy there. I don’t think the minutes displayed how I was playing. It was more of the just the way things were run there.

“That being said, I wanted a new opportunity. A new chance. Bob said that there’d be a good chance here. Everything so far has been good, if not better than I thought it would be.”

Yeo said, “I don’t have any comment on it. … I don’t think that Suts played 59 minutes of every game.”

The quotes were interesting though and paint a picture of what at least Stoner was thinking when he played for the Wild. The comments come at an interesting time also when Suter hasn’t been playing well and when the Wild seems hesitant to put Marco Scandella into a bigger role on a power play.

But, to be fair, it’s hard to say the Wild only gives the ice time to Suter when the Wild has three defensemen in the top-21 in average ice time per game in the NHL (Suter, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon).

Also, while Stoner’s average ice time took a significant hit last season at 13 minutes, 20 seconds per game, he is averaging 17:36 this season with Anaheim – less than he averaged in 2013 with the Wild (18:13 a game) and exactly what he logged in 2011-12 (17:36). In his career with the Wild, he averaged 16:12 per game.

Regardless, the Wild misses Stoner’s size, ruggedness and physicality, especially with Keith Ballard out indefinitely. I said last July and August after the Wild missed out on Willie Mitchell that the Stoner haters would see there was a void missing despite the occasional turnover.

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