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Wild forward Eric Nystrom tapped his stick before hitting the ice for the team's first-ever outdoor practice, at the John Rose Oval in Roseville. Hundreds of hockey fans turned out to see the Wild and get autographs.

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Wild embraces task of carrying on minus Koivu

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • February 20, 2011 - 8:20 AM

Just about everybody agrees on this:

If Mikko Koivu's hand injury is serious, if it will mean significant missed time, the Wild will not be able to simply replace him. Over and over, after a chilly and thrilling outdoor practice Saturday in front of a large crowd at the John Rose Oval in Roseville -- the first outdoor practice in franchise history -- that was a common theme:

"It's a huge loss," center Kyle Brodziak said. "He's one of the most important guys on our team."

"He's a leader, he plays on the power play, the penalty kill," center Matt Cullen said. "There is no way to replace a Mikko Koivu."

"If Mikko is out for a while, we're not going to find a Mikko Koivu in the marketplace," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said.

Koivu injured his left hand in the first period of Friday's 5-1 victory over Anaheim at Xcel Energy Center. It happened moments after Koivu's momentum-changing goal had tied the score 1-1. Koivu blocked a Todd Marchant shot with his left hand. He looked at the hand, left the ice, walked down the tunnel and disappeared into what may well be a weekend-long black hole of information.

Wild coach Todd Richards said he didn't know the extent of the injury after the game, and said Saturday that an update should be issued Monday.

At a minimum Koivu will be out for the short term, but the injury could be far worse.

"First of all, our thoughts are with Mikko, and we hope he'll be back soon," said Cullen, whose shorthanded goal Friday gave the Wild the lead for good. "But, as a team, we're at such a critical spot right now, and all these games are so big, we just have to find a way."

It will take contributions from everywhere on the roster, much like what was displayed Friday, when five players scored for Minnesota.

The Wild recalled center Cody Almond from Houston of the AHL and he was at practice Saturday. Richards said he would likely use Almond as the fourth center, at least initially, rather than move either Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Eric Nystrom to center. Richards also said he would likely dress seven defensemen Sunday against Detroit, which was a successful strategy against Anaheim. He said the way the team was able to play after losing Koivu early in the Anaheim game should give the team confidence going forward.

"I'm a big believer in, no matter what happens, in any given situation, there is a way," Richards said. "There is a way to win the game [Sunday]. There is a way for us to win our next five games in a row. ... It's easy for me to sit here and say that, but I'm a big believer in that."

Fletcher, meanwhile, said he didn't think he needed to make a trade to improve depth, citing depth as still one of the team's strengths. And, as he said, players like Koivu aren't out there in the trade market. Part of the problem is that so many teams in the Western Conference are still in contention for a playoff spot and are thus unlikely to be sellers as the Feb. 28 trade deadline approaches.

There would appear to be some options in the Eastern Conference. Potential targets could include New Jersey's Jason Arnott, Buffalo's Tim Connoly or Buffalo's Rob Niedermayer, a player with whom Fletcher has a history.

"If we can improve our team, we're looking to do that," Fletcher said. "We've been on the phone to see if we can improve the team. ... We're not going to trade for an average player to say we've made a trade."

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