Wild General Manager Paul Fenton hasn't firmed up a game plan for the NHL trade deadline yet, still evaluating the current roster as he lets its performance sway his strategy.
But what isn't on his shopping list right now is a center after losing captain Mikko Koivu for the rest of the season to a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee.
"We've added some pieces," Fenton said. "We've made some changes to our team. Let's see how we play for the next little bit."
While most of the team's recent maneuvering has focused on defense, the Wild added Victor Rask in a trade with the Hurricanes last month and recalled Joel Eriksson Ek from the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Those two centers filled out the top nine with Eric Staal, with Eriksson Ek scoring the Wild's only goal in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Oilers at Xcel Energy Center.
Charlie Coyle, who has played up the middle at times this season, lined up at right wing, and Eric Fehr anchored the fourth line after he was idle last game because of sickness.
"We're going to go forward and try to make this work," Fenton said.
It'll be tough for one player to take on Koivu's multifaceted role as a two-way specialist, power-play fixture and go-to penalty killer, but Fenton believes Eriksson Ek and Rask can chip in on defense.
And he's eager to see how Eriksson Ek, in particular, responds to the challenge after the 22-year-old went down to the minors late last month to log heavy minutes for just this sort of opportunity.
"Eriksson Ek is a guy we know is going to be a big part of our future," Fenton said. "Now it gives him an opportunity for him to step up."
Koivu is scheduled for surgery Friday, and after that Fenton expects to have a clearer timeline for a recovery.
"Very professional. Very straightforward. Disappointed, for sure," Fenton said when asked how Koivu reacted to the news. "Disappointed for himself and disappointed for the team because he knows him being the leader is being the guy we lean on so much in so many different situations."
That sentiment was echoed by Koivu's teammates, who recognize how important he is to their operation.
"We know what he brings," Coyle said. "We practice with him. We're on the same team. I think it's the outside eye that you don't really know what you're missing until you're watching and he's not there and you're like, 'Whoa,' and then you realize.
"And that's what Mikko does. He does stuff that you see, and he does stuff that you don't see or you don't realize until it's gone. And that's why he's so valuable to our team. So, yeah, it's going to take a lot to try to fill that role."
Winger Luke Kunin ex-pected to chat with Koivu soon, and when he does, his message will be that the recovery will be intense but that Koivu is equipped to handle it.
"It's a lot of ups and downs," said Kunin, who tore his ACL last March. "Just try to be positive and see the small steps of the growth you're getting and just try to enjoy those little accomplishments along the way. Don't try to look too far ahead because it's a long process."
Kunin was back playing in October, about six months after he underwent surgery — a typical timeline for hockey players. Now, almost a year since the injury, Kunin said his left knee feels 100 percent.
"I feel really good," he said. "I'm really happy with how mine feels."