Koivu's back, and so is his line's production

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 15, 2011 - 1:44 AM
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Wild captain Mikko Koivu

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Maybe the two most excited Wild players to see Mikko Koivu back in the lineup Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks were Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen.

Koivu's linemates have been lost souls since Koivu broke his left index finger on Feb. 18.

"When we lost Mikko, we lost Mikko, but I think we lost half of the other players, too," coach Todd Richards said, referring to how he had to experiment with different centers between slumping Brunette and Miettinen.

"You're trying different guys out to get the same output from those other two, and it just wasn't the right match for whatever reason. So now getting Mikko back, hopefully it elevates the play of the other two."

That's exactly what happened Monday, when Brunette scored late in the second period off a pass from Koivu. Then early in the third, Brunette fed Koivu for a goal that cut the Canucks' lead to 3-2.

During Koivu's 11-game absence, Brunette recorded one goal and two assists. Miettinen had no goals and three assists, with the three assists coming in one game in Anaheim.

"You patchwork it for a while and it exposes you a bit," Brunette said. "We've played with each other the last three years, so there's a comfort level there. When you take one out, especially the center, it hurts a lot.

"We haven't played in [the opponent's] end enough. It's hard to score and create when you don't have the puck down low, and that's where Mikko's so strong. The thing is, I really felt the last month or so [before Koivu was hurt] was our best hockey of the year as a line.''

Clutterbuck back, too

After a frustrating past few weeks, Cal Clutterbuck also gave it a try and returned after missing the past four games because of a concussion.

"You get to a point where you don't know yourself how you're feeling," Clutterbuck said. "You try to tune in to what you're feeling. And it's not the easiest thing to do. Like, normally you get headaches anyway, right? Well, we've had a lot of travel, different time zones, the [daylight savings], the early practice. So you don't even know what's attributed to what. That's why I've been trying to stay hydrated and be well-rested.

"The longer you're out, the more difficult it is to actually remember what it feels like to feel normal."

Clutterbuck said he passed his neurological baseline test a week ago.

Defenseman Clayton Stoner, who missed three games because of a lower-body injury, returned, too. Defenseman Marco Scandella was reassigned to Houston of the AHL. Right winger Brad Staubitz was scratched.

Etc.

• Goalie Josh Harding, who has missed all season following reconstructive knee surgery, dropped into his "butterfly" and took shots for the first time from teammates late in Monday's morning skate.

"Those days alone are over now, which is really nice," Harding said. "I know I'm not skating fully, but going on feels great."

He said he "had to talk myself into" landing on his right knee, but "no setback as of now. It feels strong. We'll see if it swells up, but hopefully it stays under control and we're good. But I woke up with a smile on my face."

• The Wild signed Massachusetts-Lowell forward Scott Campbell to an AHL amateur tryout with the Aeros. It could be a precursor to eventually signing Campbell to an NHL deal.

• Guillaume Latendresse (lower body) had an MRI on Monday. The results were not disclosed.

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