Early word: Broken finger to sideline Koivu for at least three weeks

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2011 - 7:09 AM

According to multiple league sources, General Manager Chuck Fletcher already has begun the search to acquire a center before next Monday's 2 p.m. trade deadline.

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Mikko Koivu

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Life without Mikko Koivu began Sunday for the Wild.

The team expects to learn more Monday regarding the status of its captain, but according to multiple sources, Koivu has a broken left index finger that might require surgery.

Koivu will be seen Monday by a hand specialist in order to find out if there's damage beyond what's simply shown on X-ray and to determine the best course of treatment.

The early word, sources said, is that Koivu will miss at least three weeks. If he undergoes surgery, sources said he should still return before the regular season ends.

"Mikko's been helping us in every game," goalie Niklas Backstrom said. "We want to step up and help him and make sure we're still in the race or in the playoffs when he comes back."

Koivu, in the press box during Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss to Detroit, was wearing a splint on his left index finger but declined to comment.

He has told people he would be willing to deal with the pain by bandaging it up, but he is unable to grip his stick.

Koivu is a left-shot center, meaning the left hand is lower on the stick and used for pretty much everything, from shooting to leverage on faceoffs.

"The bottom hand is always dominating," left-shot center John Madden said. "The bottom hand is doing everything. Even when you hit a one-timer, it's your bottom hand. You hit a wrist shot, bottom hand mostly, just the way you lean on it and position it.

"The bottom hand is huge."

According to multiple league sources, General Manager Chuck Fletcher already has begun the search to acquire a center before next Monday's 2 p.m. trade deadline.

In terms of free-agent rentals, there's no equivalent to Koivu available. Right now, the price is high even for marginal centers, especially since teams know the Wild's situation with Koivu injured.

And the Wild, trying to conserve salary-cap space next season, does not want to add a center whose contract goes beyond this year at a large price.

Rookie Cody Almond was recalled to play Sunday, but he only played 4 minutes, 18 seconds while Kyle Brodziak played a career-high 23 1/2 minutes, Matt Cullen played 20:58 and Madden 19:06.

Other options include moving Eric Nystrom or Pierre-Marc Bouchard to center. Recently signed free agent Jed Ortmeyer, 32, who has played 306 NHL games, is playing well in Houston, while Casey Wellman is practicing in Houston as he attempts to return from a shoulder injury.

But Wellman has been injured a lot this season, and the Wild was hoping he would be developed enough by now to spend the stretch drive in Minnesota.

As Wild players say, Koivu is not replaceable, considering the vast impact he has in every area on the ice and the presence he brings to the locker room.

"It's up to us to each take a little piece of the pie and divide it nicely," Madden said.

But the Wild was able to blow out Anaheim on Friday playing most of the game without Koivu, and got a well-earned point Sunday.

"We can't have the mentality, 'Woe is us,' " coach Todd Richards said. "We can either move forward or move backward. I really believe all the guys in the room believe it can be done.

"These things sometimes can really bring a team together. And if we can do our part here, there's going to come a point, I don't know when it is, we'll get Mikko back, we'll get Gui [Latendresse] back, and we're a lot better team."

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