LOS ANGELES -- Mikko Koivu had surgery today in the Twin Cities because of a fractured right ankle and will miss at least a month of playing time.
The Wild captain suffered the injury in Saturday's victory over the Washington Capitals. He played despite the fracture for most of the game, and had two assists in a 63-second span to set up Ryan Suter's tying and go-ahead goals 42 seconds apart on consecutive power plays.
"If there’s any question about his character or how high his competitive level is, I think this incident certainly should answer that," GM Chuck Fletcher said before practice this afternoon in El Segundo, Calif. "He came back, and the only reason why he left the bench is Mike [Yeo] asked him to leave the bench [late in the game] because he saw [Koivu] laboring, he saw [Koivu[ in pain, but Mikko wanted to stay and play. He’s a tough competitor, he’s clearly one of our best players, he’s our leader for a reason. It’s a big blow."
Koivu is the Wild's leading scorer and ranks third in the NHL among forwards in average ice time per game. He ranks 16th in the NHL in faceoff win percentage (.557) and has taken the seventh-most faceoffs (888).
Fletcher said this will provide more opportunity for youngsters Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund and others will have to step up. The Wild has recalled Erik Haula. (LINES ON BOTTOM OF BLOG)
By having surgery, Koivu's timetable has been accelerated by a month.
Koivu was placed on injured reserve earlier today, along with goalie Josh Harding, who has been fighting illness after adjustments to his treatment for multiple sclerosis. Fletcher wouldn't speculate at to why Harding hasn't been feeling well, however.
"He’s just not feeling well," Fletcher said. "I wish I could tell you more, we’re not hiding anything here. He just doesn’t feel well and whatever that’s from I can’t say. I can’t speculate, I don’t want to speculate. I think he’s feeling a little better, but he’s not able to play right now so we just kept him back and it’s a long flight, so rather than flying to this part of the country – and heat’s not a really good thing for him to be honest with you. But having him travel around the country ... . Hopefully he starts to feel better this week and we can get him back in the lineup soon."
Niklas Backstrom isn't practicing today. We're told maintenance as of now. Remember, he rarely takes practices off and Fletcher made clear when he re-signed Backstrom that he would like him to start. That is likely what this is.
Koivu is questionable for the Olympics in mid-February; the Finnish captaincy will be either Mikko or his older brother, Saku Koivu. Fletcher said "it depends on how quickly he heals," but the Olympics begin on Feb. 13. Team Finland will be named Tuesday.
"I don’t even know if that’s really our call," Fletcher said on Koivu partaking in the Olympics. "If he’s healthy, he’s eligible to go. I anticipate he’ll be healthy before the Olympics, but we’ll see how the recovery and the rehab goes. Sometimes these things are unpredictable. The surgery speeds up the recovery by about four weeks. Everything went well this morning from what we’ve been told, so I anticipate by four weeks he should be playing. So that’s right around the first few days of February. So all going well, hopefully he’ll play a few games for us before he heads over to Sochi."
Fletcher also said the team is "leaning toward" assigning defenseman Matt Dumba to Portland of the Western Hockey League. Dumba is back after playing for Team Canada at the world junior tournament in Sweden. He will first head to Minnesota to see team doctors after an injury during the tournament and to look into a virus he caught that led to weight loss. He also has an apartment of personal items to gather.
Jon Blum has been recalled and will be the Wild's seventh defenseman until Jared Spurgeon returns from a foot injury.
Fletcher said Zach Parise, who has missed six games because of a broken foot, may start skating late this week.
As I've reported, Fletcher has been trying to make a trade anyway.
Asked if he'll ride this out or look to be more aggressive to bring in a forward, defenseman or address his goaltending situation, Fletcher said, "It’s not like this happens and all of the sudden you start picking up the phone. We’ve been trying to look at things for a while. It’s just a very difficult league to do things in. There’s not a lot of players that teams want to move that are available right now. Nobody’s moving their good players right now and everyone is still in the race.
#mnwild lines: Heatley-Coyle-Pominville; Nino-Granlund-Zucker; Cooke-Haula-Fontaine; Veilleux-Brodziak-Mitchell— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) January 6, 2014