Greetings. Youngblood here. Russo is back home working on his story for tomorrow, so I took in practice before heading to the airport. I'll be covering tomorrow's game in St. Louis, with Russo covering the home game vs. the Blues on Saturday.
Items from today:
1. Greg Zanon was held out of practice after taking a puck to the elbow last night. Wild coach Todd Richards said he expects Zanon to play Friday. While we're on the subject, we should, once again, laud Zanon for his toughness and willingness to block shots. After last night's games, Zanon stood tied for third in the league in blocked shots with 131. That's an average of almost 2 1/2 per game that Zanon willingly puts his body in the way of a shot. "He takes pucks all over," said Richards, who talked about the NHL add that features players willing to block shots. "When you get into the head of the game, the adrenaline is going, you do things without even thinking," Richards said.
Seems you can't see Zanon in the locker room without seeing a bag of ice taped to part of his body. Richards joked that Zanon must like the ice bags at home. "Then he doesn't have to get up and go to the fridge," Richards said. "He can keep his drink cool."
Richards also gave Zanon a lot of the credit for helping bring along Clayton Stoner, his defensive partner. The two have been playing very well of late, giving the Wild impressive depth at the blue line. It was a match made by necessity rather than plan. Zanon and Marek Ziclicky was the team's most consistent defensive pairing last season. They were together again this year until Zidlicky got hurt, forcing a change.
Zanon is currently a plus-2 and Stoner is a plus-8.
"I think they help each other out," Richards said of the two. "I think they compliment each other. They play a similar style. They're both physical guys. They put their bodies on the line, every shift, whether that means taking a hit, giving a hit or blocking shots."
Meanwhile, the Wild travel to play St. Louis in the first of back-to-back games against the Blues. St. Louis won just twice in January, but has won two of three so far in February.
"It seems like every team (in the Western Conference) is starting to figure it out," Richards said. How true.
One final note: Richards said Jose Theodore would be in nets Friday, with Niklas Backstrom playing Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
That's about it for now. Have a good day.