Seven seasons into his NHL career, Mikko Koivu is finally an All-Star.
"It's about time," said former linemate and present Chicago Blackhawk Andrew Brunette. "I’d put him against anybody head-to-head and you’re going to come up with the better end of the stick."
After arguably being snubbed last season, the Wild captain and one of the NHL’s most underrated players was named to the All-Star Game on Thursday morning.
Koivu called it a big honor, but if you know Koivu, he rarely likes talking individually. So I asked him if he’ll be able to enjoy this.
“When it’s time for that,” Koivu said. “I don’t think right now. We’re in the middle of a road trip and it’s a game day and a tough stretch coming up for us. When the time comes, you’re able to enjoy it and probably even more realize what’s happening. Right now, of course, you’re happy about it, but at the same time you want to focus on the game and road trip.”
All-Star Weekend will take place at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Jan. 28-29. The NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft will be held on Jan. 26 to divide the group into the two competing All-Star Teams, each comprised of 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goaltenders, to play in the Jan. 29 game.
Koivu, who has led the Wild in scoring in each of the past three seasons, leads the Wild again this season with 33 points in 39 games. A potential Selke Trophy candidate for best defensive forward, he leads the NHL’s second-worst offensive team with a plus-9 rating.
GM Chuck Fletcher talked about how he hopes this is the type of recognition that will make folks leaguewide realize how good Koivu is. He hopes this is the type of recognition that makes writers realize he warrants Selke votes.
“I’m stunned he doesn’t get more recognition,” Fletcher said. “He’s only concerned about winning games and individual stuff is not what drives him. I personally feel for our franchise it’s important that he gets more recognition and today’s a great first step in that direction.”
Fletcher mentioned how you realize his value when Koivu’s not in the lineup.
Koivu is the Wild’s second all-time leading scorer with 350 points in 472 games. He ranks first on the all-time list with 245 assists, third with 105 goals, second with 79 multi-point games, second with nine shorthanded goals and second with 1,169 shots.
His 26 shootout goals rank sixth in NHL history – three behind leader Jussi Jokinen.
Coach Mike Yeo on Koivu: “He truly deserves it. For all our ups and downs, we’re still in a pretty good spot, and we’ve had some success this year. And you have to look at him and what he contributes to this team – the leadership that he brings, the will to win that he plays with everyday, how good he is on both sides of the puck. …”
Despite yesterday's illness, Josh Harding has earned his second consecutive start. In Niklas Backstrom's past six starts, he is 1-5 with an .890 save percentage and 3.54 goals against average, but as it turns out, now Backstrom's sick.
Backstrom did share a net this morning with Matt Hackett, but Hackett will back up Harding.
Colton Gillies (lower body) won't play.
Yeo expects a big response game from Devin Setoguchi, who was scratched last game for missing a team meeting.
“I think he’s going to play hard tonight. I do. For one, I think our team set the bar pretty high last game. … I always like accountability, and I always like even more than that, if you mess up, you come back and respond.”
Speaking of Setoguchi, in the middle of my postgame blog last game where I reported that he missed a team meeting, I flippantly threw out there that it came after he went out with his former Sharks teammates the night before.
I should not have thrown something like that out there. It created an assumption by some that Setoguchi missed the team meeting Tuesday morning because of that. That was unfair to Setoguchi, who maintains he missed his alarm and overslept. I didn't mean to create the perception that Setoguchi missed the meeting because he was out with his friends. Again, he maintains it was an honest mistake, one that happens to us all.