LOS ANGELES If two weeks into the season is any indication of things to come, get used to seeing Mikko Koivu on the ice a lot.
In need of a big penalty kill, a shutdown center in a tight game, a jump-start to a drowsy line, a trusted soldier in the final minute?
Koivu is the guy, or specifically Wild coach Jacques Lemaire's guy.
"The guy right now that I have the extreme confidence in is Mikko," Lemaire said. "Anybody would. It's not because I'm different. I'm like other people. You like him? Well, I like him, too. How couldn't you? Look how he plays."
Entering Tuesday night's game against the Kings, Koivu is averaging 18 minutes, 40 seconds a game, a few seconds more than last season's top minute-munching forward, Brian Rolston.
In Sunday's 2-0 victory at Anaheim, a game in which the Ducks were scoreless on eight power plays, Koivu was "the Human Penalty Kill." Whether it was 4-on-5, 3-on-4 or 3-on-5, Koivu was causing mayhem with what in hockey is called "a good stick."
Countless times, Koivu either cleared the zone off a faceoff, intercepted passes or tipped pucks to disrupt flow.
"You can't run around and be everywhere on the penalty kill, so you have to use your stick, block shots and make the job easier for the goalie," Koivu said. "You have to be patient and trust the guy next to you and work together."
Tuesday's game was center Eric Belanger's first against the Kings since they traded him to Carolina in September 2006. Belanger, a fifth-round pick by the Kings in 1996, spent five seasons with Los Angeles.
"It was special coming back here yesterday, being in El Segundo [where the Kings practice] and seeing some old friends," Belanger said. "I was here for a lot of years, so it's pretty cool. But it'll be special to be on the other side tonight."
Belanger was surprised his old team was 1-5 with 27 goals against entering Tuesday's game.
"Look at their roster, they have some good players," he said. "When you're a young team, it's fragile and I think that's what it is right now. Sometimes you can have a great group of players on paper, but the mix is not good. That might be the problem, too, I don't know."
Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard believed Sunday's game in Anaheim was full of everything a fan would want for entertainment -- fights, hard hits, scoring chances.
"That's the way every game should be played," Boogaard said. "I'm not kidding. The fans were excited."
Boogaard fought twice and had two more of the league's new brittle jerseys rip.
"I'm going to start selling them on eBay," he said, laughing.
|Chicago Cubs||1||Top 6th Inning|
|Baltimore - K. Gausman||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - B. Morrow|
|Minnesota - S. Diamond||6:08 PM|
|Detroit - R. Porcello|
|Cleveland - Z. McAllister||6:10 PM|
|Boston - R. Dempster|
|LA Angels - J. Blanton||7:10 PM|
|Kansas City - E. Santana|
|San Jose||9:30 PM|