Wild will lack Koivu; Ohlund hit reviewed

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 18, 2007 - 8:24 AM

Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund earned the Wild's ire for his two-handed slash on Mikko Koivu.

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Mikko Koivu was slashed later in this game Friday night and suffered a cracked bone in his leg.

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Mattias Ohlund's two-handed slash on Mikko Koivu on Friday has knocked the Wild center out for at least one week, possibly more. How much playing time it will cost Ohlund should be known today.

The diagnosis on Koivu is a cracked fibula. Because the bone is not displaced, he will not need to wear a cast, according to Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough. Koivu's recovery time will depend on how quickly the crack fills in.

But know this: One day after an ugly 6-2 loss in Vancouver, few with the Wild appear to have gotten over Ohlund's actions.

"I just don't understand," Risebrough said Saturday afternoon. "I'm confused why players -- even if there is an infraction -- I don't know why someone swings their stick like a baseball bat from the shoulders down and hits someone on the back of the leg."

The infraction Risebrough was talking about was the elbowing minor Koivu was assessed during the incident.

The NHL will likely decide on a suspension for Ohlund by today, as the Canucks play Calgary tonight. Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior vice president and director of hockey operations, confirmed to the Star Tribune that the league would look into the incident. Risebrough said the league had called him and asked for an injury report on Koivu.

Risebrough wouldn't guess on what the league might do with Ohlund, or whether the length of a possible suspension would be mitigated by Koivu's elbowing penalty. But the Canucks are scheduled to play the Wild in Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, and it's likely the league -- wanting to avoid any possible problems -- would like to avoid having Ohlund play in that game. For that to happen, he would have to be suspended for three games.

Ohlund's swinging stick was the low spot in a game filled with chippy action that resulted in a lot of talk out of both dressing rooms afterward. In no particular order:

• Wild winger Marian Gaborik and Vancouver's Ryan Kesler battled much of the night, with Gaborik ultimately being called for elbowing. The Canucks cried foul, the Wild wondered why Kesler was able to take runs at the Wild star all evening.

• At the end of the game, the Canucks howled that the Wild's Stephane Veilleux had shot the puck at Vancouver's Mike Weaver as time expired, a charge Veilleux denied.

But most of the reaction surrounded Ohlund's swinging stick. After the game, Ohlund said he had overreacted. The Wild, meanwhile, was furious then and still irritated Saturday.

"That was awful, just a straight-up, home run he was trying to hit with his ankle there," winger Mark Parrish said. "It was pretty brutal. I'd be pretty surprised if he was playing [Wednesday]."

Said Brian Rolston: "One of our best players getting two-handed like that? There will be some carryover effects from that for sure. ... It was a two-hander. There's no room for that. I think he'll get suspended, for sure. We'll move on, but I just hope we don't lose Mikko for any extended period."

The Wild will lose him for a while, and at an inopportune time. The Wild is coming off a 1-3 road trip and has won only three times in its past 11 games. Glass half full: The Wild is still only one point behind division-leading Colorado, which is in town tonight. Half empty: The Wild is also one point away from being out of the playoff picture after a strong start to the season.

Koivu is second on the team in scoring and second among forwards in ice time. He leads the team with a plus-5 rating. And his absence puts the Wild in a bind at center. Risebrough said he would not call up a player from Houston of the AHL for tonight's game, but he wouldn't rule out a future move.

But Koivu's injury, coupled with Wes Walz still being away from the team, has left the Wild with only three healthy centers for tonight in Eric Belanger, James Sheppard and Dominic Moore. The good news is that Parrish, who left Friday's game because of a strained back, practiced Sunday and is listed as probable for today.

But who will fill the gap at center? Coach Jacques Lemaire said it could be either Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Rolston in the short term.

And then, after tonight, what about Wednesday? Whether Ohlund plays or not, the possibility of retribution will surround that game.

After Friday's loss, Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard talked about Wednesday's rematch. "Their so-called agitators were taking liberties," said Boogaard, who missed Saturday's practice having a laceration on his elbow tended to. "As soon as I stepped on the ice [all game], they just sort of spread out and scatter in their holes almost. They don't want to come near me and talk to me. But they think they can slash and stick and punch our skill guys. I'm not going to stand for it."

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