For injured Wild players, spirit is willing, but flesh still isn't

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2011 - 11:23 PM
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Wild center Mikko Koivu

Photo: Steve Nesius, Associated Press

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DALLAS - Mikko Koivu sounded like a man ready to boil over after taking the splint off his broken finger Friday.

The Wild captain has been sidelined for three weeks, yet with the season on the brink, he still didn't feel comfortable enough to play against the Dallas Stars after an hour of shooting and passing pucks Friday morning.

"We're taking it day by day. That's all I can say," Koivu said, in no mood to talk before missing his 11th consecutive game. "It is what it is. There's nothing you can do about it. It's getting there. It is what it is."

Cal Clutterbuck, who missed his fourth game because of a head injury Friday night, was able to put his frustration into words.

"It's kind of a helplessness," he said. "You want to try and find any way you can to be able to justify getting into the lineup. I wish it was something that wasn't in any danger of getting worse so I could just bear the pain and battle through it. That's the most discouraging part. You look normal, you kind of feel normal, but you're not."

Clutterbuck didn't feel right after getting hit in the head by the Islanders' Trevor Gillies on March 2. Yet, he played the next night against the Rangers.

"I kind of had the feeling that maybe it was just going to kind of pass," he said. "I had been through that before where I didn't feel very good, but then it kind of passed. I just expected that to happen. I tried to wait it out, wait it out, but things got worse.

"I want to make sure that I'm good to go and if we do make the playoffs, I want to be able to be there 100 percent healthy."

Clutterbuck said he felt Friday's morning skate "was the first time I feel I made some progress. I don't think I'm there yet, but I'm slowly getting better, which is encouraging, I guess."

Coach Todd Richards also looked helpless Friday morning. "Having both those guys out of the lineup at the same time is a pretty big hole," said Richards.

Koivu is especially sorely missed. "Without a question, Mikko drives the team," Richards said. "That's why he's wearing the 'C'."

Asked if he wished Koivu would just tape the finger up and give it a try, Richards said. "If there's any opportunity to get your best player back in the lineup, you want your best player back in the lineup. But he's got to feel 100 percent about it.

"We don't want to force him into something where he re-injures it and now he's out for an extended period of time. We have to be safe about it."

Etc.

• Defenseman Clayton Stoner, who suffered a season-ending sports hernia last year, missed his third game because of abdominal problems. He hopes to return Monday in Vancouver. "I know there's a lot of precaution going into it," Richards said. "I think there's a lot on his end because of what he went through last year. There's a history there and we have to be careful with it."

• The Wild's trying to get up-and-down defenseman Brent Burns to simplify his game. "Right now he's just a bit off in his game," Richards said. "It's how do we get him back on top of his game. We see flashes of it. ... Sometimes trying to do too much, it becomes a problem."

• German goalie Dennis Endras, who agreed to a two-year deal last summer, is now officially signed.

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