Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Mikko Koivu injures shoulder during shootout loss at St. Louis

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 15, 2012 - 1:30 PM

Sunday update is actually a non-update. GM Chuck Fletcher will update the media on the Koivu injury Monday after practice and before the team's continuation of its road trip to Philadelphia. By the way, I got a few emails asking if this injury is to the same shoulder as the one Koivu had operated on in April 2010. That was actually to the right shoulder -- a torn labrum.

I did a Podcast Thursday afternoon in the bowels of the United Center with Greg Wyshynski and Jeff Marek. They asked me if the Wild's going to make the playoffs.

I told them that if they ever wake up and hear Koivu's been injured the night before, well, run for the hills.

Put on your sneakers and start trotting.

Koivu suffered a left shoulder injury tonight. The Wild's only calling it an upper body injury for now, but that sling I saw him wearing after the Wild's 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis tonight was on his shoulder. No timetable offered just yet by coach Mike Yeo, but this isn't good obviously. Hopefully we know more Sunday or Monday after he is seen by team doctors.

Since 2008-09, the Wild is 6-11-3 without Koivu, 0-3-1 this season. And as we all have witnessed, the Wild can step up for a little while and pick up the slack, but over time, it has proven unable to sustain life without Koivu. (And remember, Gui Latendresse and P-M Bouchard are also hurt indefinitely).

In fact, losing Koivu for four games was the beginning of this team completely losing its identity and plummeting down the standings to the point it's oh-so close to being out of the top-8.

Tonight? Impressive the way they picked up the slack.

You play St. Louis, especially in St. Louis, you better be ready to push and shove and hit and scrap and sweat and bleed. This is a tough, physical, mean, very big team (20-5-6 under Ken Hitchcock, 18-3-3 at home this season), and the Wild stood up to the challenge tonight. Clayton Stoner and Brad Staubitz fought. Everybody was hitting. Everybody was throwing their bodies in front of shots tonight. It was beyond impressive.

Stoner blocked five, Jared Spurgeon five. Justin Falk five. And Falk played big tonight. Mean, nasty, physical and got David Backes off the ice for the last 19 minutes of the first period. When Falk plays like that, he is so, so effective.

Enough can't be said about Josh Harding tonight. One night after taking a 10-story swan dive on the knife for his self-described "brutal" performance in Chicago, he makes a career-high 47 saves. 31 for 31 in the first and third periods, and in the first period, every shot seemed like a genuine scoring chance, and in the third period, it seemed the entire period St. Louis was on a power play. Well, they basically were in the first half of the period as Stoner must have really hurt referee Brad Meier's feelings.

The ref was so pained, he felt like in a 2-2 game, with four seconds left in the second, he couldn't let go whatever Stoner said to him and had to give Stoner and the Wild an extra 2. That means the Wild in a 2-2 game had to open the third down a man for 3:57. Although, the refs nullified that with a couple penalties to St. Louis in a whistle-happy game.

Again, if the Wild is going to be without Koivu for awhile, I just don't know how it's possible to exude that type of effort every night. 

"It’s a big loss," Harding said. "Just like all year, we've had people go down, but people step up. We didn’t have him through a lot of this game, and I thought that a lot of people picked up their game. We're not going to be able to fill his shoes, but collectively we can battle hard for each other."

The problem is there isn't a lot of scoring punch in the minors. Chad Rau is a center and may be the guy to come up, but it seems to me everybody else is a checker. Jeff Taffe has been a minor-league scorer -- that really hasn't scored this year. So I'd pick Rau. 

But ... Rau is not Mikko Koivu. So if you're GM Chuck Fletcher, what can you do? I don't think it's smart to dig into the prospect pool to get a short-term fix in an effort to save the season. That'd be a real shame. The only way you do that is if the player(s) you're acquiring are true top-6 forwards that will stick around in the future. 

As for guys on the current roster, I don't know who could acquire such a top-6 player unless it's Harding. Is Greg Zanon getting that done? No. Mike Lundin? Negative. So Fletcher's in a bit of a hands-tied pickle. It'll be interesting to see what happens here because I just can't imagine the Wild will be able to sustain a good chunk of games without Koivu.

Now, maybe it won't be serious. But like I said, he's in a sling.

Congrats to David McIntyre, the Pefferlaw, Ontario, native, whose first NHL goal deflected in off his shin after a pass from Matt Cullen. McIntyre, 24, has been one of Houston's best players this season and with Colton Gillies in Columbus and Mikko Koivu injured, sorry buddy, you may have to move to Minnesota now.

The former Dallas Stars 2006 fifth-round pick is playing for his fourth organization. He came to the Wild last summer from the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Maxim Noreau, who now plays in Italy.

Couple things. Jared Spurgeon scored tonight. It was his first goal since Nov. 13 and a Wild defenseman's first goal since Dec. 8 (Marco Scandella, who's in the minors). It also snapped a 0-for-21 Wild power-play drought and was the Wild's second PPG in 37 games in the past 14 games.

That's it for me. No practice Sunday. The Wild will practice at home Monday before resuming its trip with the team fathers and guests in Philadelphia (tour of the city for the dads) and Toronto (Hockey Hall of Fame tour for the dads, and moi).

I'll blog Sunday if there's news, especially on Koivu. I'll also be on Rosen's Sports Sunday in the evening on CBS.

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