Training camp

Cuma returned to junior; Gillies, Pouliot survive final cuts

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

I’ll be on KFAN at 2:20 p.m. today to talk Gaborik and more.
From Monday’s practice, Colton Gillies has been informed he is officially an NHL rookie. Also, Josh Harding is practicing, but no Marek Zidlicky.


Well, yes and no.

As usual, Doug Risebrough’s keeping everything close to the vest.

Benoit Pouliot has definitely made the team. We’ll know more on Colton Gillies tomorrow, but it certainly looks like he made the team. Remember, he signed a three-year deal last March.

After all, wingers Danny Irmen and Cal Clutterbuck, center Krys Kolanos and defenseman Justin Falk were assigned to AHL Houston.

It sounds like Risebrough just wants to have a discussion with Gillies first in the morning. The team was off today. 

With defenseman Marek Zidlicky (ankle) still out, right now defensemen Erik Reitz and Tomas Mojzis remain.

As expected, defenseman Tyler Cuma was returned to the OHL Ottawa 67s today.

Right now, with Josh Harding out with a scratched cornea, Barry Brust stays. If Harding isn’t ready for opening night, the team will decide whether Brust stays or if he’ll be swapped for Nolan Schaefer.

Rosters have to be submitted Wednesday by 2 p.m.

Wild 3, Canadiens 0; Roster talk; Nolan highlights

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

As you could tell my below blog, the Wild was very good tonight in every area.

Niklas Backstrom was so good, the classy fans in Montreal gave him a standing O at one point

Jacques said tonight was the best Stephane Veilleux he’s seen. He played with Marian Gaborik and James Sheppard, and Veilleux and Gaborik scored goals and Sheppard had two assists.

Veilleux led the Wild with four goals in the preseason and Sheppard and Veilleux tied with six points.

Antti Miettinen was very good tonight, as was Erik Reitz, who fought Steve Begin in the end as a reaction for Begin’s earlier hit on Gaborik.

Talked with GM Doug Risebrough before tonight’s game. The Wild plans to make cuts Sunday. He sounds like Colton Gillies and Cal Clutterbuck/Danny Irmen can’t BOTH make the team barring injuries. Risebrough said he’ll keep 23 players, including injured defenseman Kurtis Foster, who will be placed on injured reserve.

So in reality, that’s 22 players — 13 forwards and seven defensemen. To keep both Gillies and Clutterbuck/Irmen, the Wild would likely need to keep 14 forwards.

So if I had to guess, Gillies gets the wing spot and Benoit Pouliot obviously gets the center spot over Krys Kolanos.

Risebrough said he doesn’t know if Marek Zidlicky will be ready by the start of the season with an injured ankle. He says he’s day-to-day.

If he’s not ready, the Wild will keep an extra defenseman, meaning Reitz and probably Tomas Mojzis.

As for Tyler Cuma, I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking if the Wild could keep him 10 games. Remember, that’s only if he’s signed. If he’s not signed, he’d have to be returned to Ottawa of the OHL by Tuesday at 5 p.m, I think.

And according to members of the front office, there has been no talk of signing him yet. Everything with Risebrough and Lemaire is subject to change, but so far, he’s going back to junior.


Wild at Canadiens (updated); Game scoring will be on bottom

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Hello from the wonderful Bell Centre, which possesses one of the great atmospheres in pro sports.

It’s the 100th season of the Habs, and you can feel the optimism in the air. The Canadiens haven’t won a Cup since ’93, but the city’s expecting big things from this crew.

Fifty fans at least were waiting by the Canadiens’ parking garage just waiting for players to show up. You’ve got the All-Star Game here this season, the Draft. A new $7.8 million hi-def scoreboard ala Vancouver, Calgary, Chicago, etc.

I’m exhausted. I’m getting old. In my younger days, two regional jet flights would do nothing to me. Today, I’m in dire need of a nap.

Got to town at 2 p.m., got to the hotel at 3, got to spend some time with my father watching the Penguins-Senators, who lives down in Vermont, and now I’m here.

But I didn’t even get to go out of the hotel other than the walk to the arena. Talk about a wasted trip to one of the great cities on the continent.

Got into the building at 4:30, and Mikko Koivu and Saku Koivu were already chatting it up. Both teams are playing essentially their real lineups tonight.

Forgot to tell you, I ran into Scott Mellanby, the great former Panthers captain, and his wife, Sue, in the Minneapolis airport Thursday when I was heading to Columbus. He’s now working for the Vancouver Canucks.

I’m reminded of this because I once covered Mellanby crashing into the end boards here in Montreal at the end of a game as he tried to beat out an icing. Like Kurtis Foster, he was taken off on a stretcher. Frightening. Thank goodness, Mellanby wound up only with a concussion.

Funny story about that. After we filed our story, David J. Neal of the Miami Herald and I went to Montreal General Hospital to report on how Mellanby was doing.

We were in the emergency room, heard him talking and he gave us the thumbs up that he was OK. So I grabbed my cell to call the Sun-Sentinel and a nurse started screaming at me to get off the phone. She said in broken English, “Can’t you see the sign?”

I said, “I can’t read French.”

I then look at the sign and it’s a picture of a cell phone with a slash through it. :)

The next morning, Mellanby wound up flying commercial to Toronto to meet up with the Panthers, the same flight David J and I were on. As Mellanby was stowing his bag, he dropped the overhead bin and it slammed on his concussed melon.

It made for a good lead to my follow-up story that day, that’s for sure.

OK, be back soon.


Risebrough: Gaborik won’t be signed by start of the season; Columbus 5, Wild 3

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

FYI, edited a few things at the light of day. Wanted to also make clear neither side said they were done talking, although they’ve been talking for awhile. Also, Risebrough wouldn’t comment when asked if he’d continue negotiating into the season. 

The Marian Gaborik negotiations have hit a stalemate, and GM Doug Risebrough told me today he won’t be signed by the Oct. 11 opener.

“Not making any headway,” said Risebrough, who last month said it would be prudent to sign Gaborik, the team’s all-time leading scorer, to an extension by next Saturday’s season opener.

“I was trying to do something before the season. It’s not happening. … It’s not going to happen by the start of the season.”

Asked if he’ll react by putting Gaborik on the trading block, Risebrough said, “That, I’ll have to determine.”

Asked if he’s already started talking to other teams, Risebrough said, “I’m not going to comment anymore.”

It should be noted that previously when asked that same question, Risebrough had said emphatically, “I’m not talking to anybody, and I’m not interested in talking to anybody.”

I won’t rehash every detail I put in tomorrow’s paper. (Here’s the story). You can read Gaborik and the rest of Risebrough in there, and my analysis on the situation. But I will put up this quote from agent Ron Salcer.

Funny story, but I talked to Salcer while he was at a golf tournament on a cart next to Marty McSorley. McSorley jokingly threatened me. I jokingly told him I’d keep my head up, hehe.

“We have no obligation other than Marian to honor his contract and play hard,” Salcer said. “That’s his job and that’s what he’ll do. It’s their team. They’re entitled to run it the way they want to run it. We haven’t come to an amicable conclusion and we’ll see how they proceed. If they decide they want to move him, that’s their decision.”

I’ve got to tell you, this ain’t no bluff. Look at Salcer’s history. Ground-breaking contracts for Dave Taylor, Pavel Bure, Ed Belfour, Rob Blake and lots of others.

When L.A. wouldn’t sign Blake years ago for $9 million per, the Kings dealt him to Colorado and the Avs did just that.

Salcer believes someone will pay Marian Gaborik $9.5 million-10 million on the open market next summer, I think. And maybe he’s right. Los Angeles perhaps. How about Vancouver?

As I wrote tomorrow, usually these type of blockbusters are made among chums.

For instance, former Edmonton GM Glen Sather and the Rangers’ Neil Smith were tight in the 1990s. Sather dealt New York players like Mark Messier, Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe and Esa Tikkanen.

Sather and then-Calgary GM Cliff Fletcher are tight. The two could never make a trade because of the Battle of Alberta, but when Fletcher went to Toronto the first time in 1991, within a month, Grant Fuhr and Glenn Anderson were on the Maple Leafs.

Risebrough’s buddies? Montreal’s Bob Gainey, Toronto’s Fletcher and the Rangers’ Sather (Sather and Risebrough spent some time fishing in Alaska this summer, and the two have homes virtually next door to each other in Banff).

Of course, what can you get for a player who looks intent on becoming a free agent?

I think Pittsburgh is a strong possibility, too.


Wild at Blue Jackets

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Update: Defenseman John Scott said he has a badly sprained right ankle. New blog post soon.

Hola from Nationwide Arena, where Russo is stretched out up in the press box. I’ve got an entire TV booth to myself.

I’ll be on Columbus radio between the first and second periods, by the way.

And incidentally, I’d suggest you all check back after the game and read a blog post I’ll be throwing up.

As for tonight, the lineup’s on the below post. Justin Falk will make his pro debut. Exciting day for the pride of Snowflake, Manitoba. One second he’s a junior player, the next second, he’s got an NHL contract in his pocket and is playing in a Wild uni.

I’ll be back when the game is start, and again, be sure to check back at Russo’s Rants after the game.


Picture of Harding getting injured; Wild lineup in Columbus; Falk signed

Friday, October 3rd, 2008


Jim Mone from Associated Press should get some kind of award for this shot.

You realize here just how lucky Josh Harding is.

Lineup vs. Columbus:

Veilleux Sheppard Weller
Boogaard Kolanos Clutterbuck
Gillies Pouliot Gaborik
Bouchard Belanger Nolan

Falk Johnsson
Scott Burns
Schultz Skoula



Wild signed 2007 fourth-round pick Justin Falk to an entry-level deal today. He’ll go to Houston but play tonight — his pro debut. He got three years, $1.575 million plus a $200,000 signing bonus. He’ll make $65,000, $60,000, $55,000 in the minors.

He’s very excited.

More later.