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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Officially, Wild calling Koivu week-to-week

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under On the road, Wild news Updated: January 16, 2012 - 5:00 PM

Mikko Koivu is going on the Wild's road trip to Philadelphia and Toronto. But it will be in an advisory role. 

Youngblood here from Wild practice.

Sources told MIchael Russo that Koivu had a separated left shoulder and is likely to be out 4-6 weeks. The Wild captain and leading scorer was injured Saturday in St. Louis.

Officially, Koivu is being called week-to-week with an upper body injury. But coach Mike Yeo said not to expect the Wild captain back before the All-Star break.

The All-Star game is Jan. 29 in Ottawa, and Koivu is the team's lone representative.  There is no requirement that every team be represented, so Koivu would not be replaced by another Wild skater.

There is no question coach Yeo hit on some strong talking points while addressing the team before practice today, because most of the players were speaking as one. That message:

1. With Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse all out, with scoring getting harder all the time, the Wild has apparently entered playoff mode with the season at a tipping point. "This is a playoff stretch for us," Matt Cullen said. "This has to be our mindset now. We have to get into that style."

Said Yeo: "We have to be in that mode right now, where it's life and death every game. If we do that, then we'll give ourselves a good chance."

2. There is no question in anybody's mind that this is a make-or-break stretch of the season. "There are always a few of them (in a season)," Yeo said. "And this is one of those moments, for sure. How we handle this? We'd like to be in a much better place when (Koivu) comes back. 

3. That said, given how the Wild went 0-3-1 with Koivu out with a lower body injury in late December, the Wild has to do some things differently. 

To that end, Yeo had some interesting lines out there for practice. He had Cullen on the top line with Dany Heatley at one wing and Nick Johnson on the other. Kyle Brodziak centered the second line, with Darroll Powe and Devin Setoguchi. The Third line was Warren peters with Cal Clutterbuck and David McIntyre. The final line was incomplete, as a player will be called up from Houston, according to Yeo. But Monday assistant coach Darby Hendrickson was skating with Brad Staubitz and Casey Wellman.

Those lines are interesting, in that there is a mix of skill and grit on each line. Yeo put a lot of thought into these combinations. "It gives us the ability to play the type of game we'll have to play," he said. "They looked good today."

4. One other thing: As much as every player will have to step up his game, Yeo does not want anybody trying to do what they cannot. And he doesn't want anybody trying to do it by himself. 

But back to Koivu. He talked about how frustrated he was. He said he was just starting to feel 100 percent after having come back from his previous injury when he suffered his latest setback. "It's frustrating, especially this time of year," Koivu said. "You're playing a lot of games, you're right in the middle of it. But there is nothing you can do about it. You have  to move on an try to get better as (quickly) as you can."

Koivu said he thought he was hurt worse initially than he actually is. He is encouraged by that. And he has confidence that his teammates can step up in his absence. Being able to skate while his shoulder mends will mean a quicker return, conditioning-wise. 

Update: Winger Carson McMillan was recalled.  And goaltender Matt Hackett was sent back to Houston with Niklas Backstrom feeling better. 

The players' fathers will be along on the road trip tomorrow in Philadelphia and Thursday in Toronto.

One other thing. The Wild usually ends its practices with a shootout drill. Yeo put extra pressure on today. The loser -- the last player to score in the drill -- had to refill the water glasses tonight at the team dinner. Actually the loser and his father. That means Larry and Justin Falk will have extra duty this evening. 

That's it for now. Have a good afternoon.

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