ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild will likely be without captain Mikko Koivu for at least two weeks, if not more.
They haven’t fared well without their first-line centre, newly minted all-star and emotional leader over the years, and they’re about to get a lot more practice.
Head coach Mike Yeo said Monday that Koivu has an upper-body injury, declining to specify, but Koivu appeared to take a blow to his left shoulder in Saturday’s game at St. Louis after a hit from Blues left wing Vladimir Sobotka.
Yeo said Koivu’s status will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, adding that he’ll probably be out until after the all-star break. The good news for the Wild is that they only have four games over the next 14 days, but if Koivu has to miss a month of action that means 10 games without their best all-around player.
“We just want to see how he feels in a week. If he’s not ready for that week, then we’ll see how he feels the week after that,” Yeo said. “So we’re not tip-toeing. We don’t know right now.”
Koivu leads the team in total points (33), assists (24) and plus-minus rating (plus-9).
“It’s frustrating, especially at this time of the year, too,” Koivu said. “We play a lot of games and we’re right in the middle of it, but there’s nothing you can do about it, and you just got to move on and try and get better as quick as you can.”
Koivu missed four games last month with an unspecified lower-body injury, and the Wild were 0-3-1 during that stretch. He sat out of 11 games last season because of a broken finger, and the Wild were just 4-5-2 in that span.
“As a group you just have to kind of come together and rally around the fact that he’s a huge part of the game for us,” said Matt Cullen, who will likely take Koivu’s place on the first line. “We’ve got to find a way to win.”
Particularly given the Wild’s recent fade. After surging to the best record in the NHL in mid-December, they’re only 2-9-4 since then.
“This is one of those moments, for sure, how we handle this,” Yeo said, adding: “We’d like to be in a much better place when Mikko comes back.”
Koivu was placed on injured reserve Monday, and Carson McMillan was recalled from Houston, the Wild’s AHL affiliate.
The Wild are already missing two other top-six forwards, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse, both to concussions. Yeo said both players have begun to feel better, raising hope that all three players can be back on the ice when the playoff chase truly intensifies.
“We don’t have another Mikko Koivu around, so it would be foolish of us to try to get anybody to be him and it wouldn’t be very effective for any of our players to try to be him,” Yeo said. “It’s a big challenge for us, and we have to view it as such and get excited about the opportunity to rise to it. A lot of people are probably writing us off right now, and we’ve got a lot of guys out, but the one thing that I know is this is a team that has a lot of character, and we need a lot of that right now.”
Koivu said he knew immediately after the hit that he suffered a significant injury but added that he’s relieved his condition wasn’t worse.
“I was ready for the hit. I was steady, kind of hitting back a little bit, and I took the hit like I always do,” Koivu said. “So there’s nothing I could’ve done differently. He just got me in the right spot.”
He’s able to skate and stay in shape, which should help him return sooner than if he were relegated to riding a stationary bike, as with some injuries. Recently picked to play in his first All-Star game, Koivu said he’s not ready to determine whether he’ll have to miss the contest.
The Wild’s performance during his absence is of greater concern.
“Sooner or later we’ll get those wins and get the confidence back where it was,” Koivu said.