Koivu sidelined again in latest lopsided loss

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSOMICHAEL.RUSSO@STARTRIBUNE.COM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 29, 2012 - 8:17 AM

A promising season continues to crumble, and the Wild will have to go on without its captain.

 

In another must-win with its improbable playoff hopes dying, the Wild suffered a painful blow in the standings Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings, one of four teams it is trying to leapfrog, skated out of Xcel Energy Center with a 4-0 victory.

The 12th-place Wild is now five points behind the eighth-, ninth- and 10th-place teams.

"We just weren't good enough," center Kyle Brodziak said. "You create your own breaks in this game. We didn't do that. We didn't create any breaks because we didn't deserve any. We didn't earn any."

What's more, one day after one of the biggest locker-room pulses, Nick Schultz, was traded to the Edmonton Oilers, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher confirmed that captain Mikko Koivu has missed the past six games because he has aggravated his left shoulder injury. He will be shut down without contact for the next two weeks.

Koivu's injury initially had been undisclosed.

"We want to do what's right and were trying to protect him [from being targeted]," Fletcher said. "He's trying to do everything he can to get back to play."

Koivu was originally injured Jan. 14 in St. Louis on a check from Vladimir Sobotka. He missed the next eight games. On Feb. 11 -- two games after returning -- Koivu aggravated the injury when he was tackled by then-Blue Jackets forward Jeff Carter. He played two more games with soreness.

"We were the ones that pulled him out and said, 'No, let's let this rest.' He wanted to keep playing because he cares about this team," Fletcher said. "Mikko did what was in the best interest of the team short-term. Now we have to do what's in the best interest of Mikko long-term.

"His initial injury, he came back very quickly. It was a very aggressive return to play. The team is obviously struggling, trying to survive, and he wanted to help."

On Tuesday, Koivu sought the opinion of a specialist who concurred with other doctors. He cannot face any contact and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Fletcher wouldn't say the exact nature of the injury and doesn't know if he'll need surgery.

Asked if the team continues to slide if Koivu might be shut down for good, Fletcher said, "It'll be up to the doctors."

"It's a huge loss. Everyone's got to give a little more to try to overcome it," Brodziak said.

The Wild fell behind 3-0 in the first period despite only giving up a handful of scoring chances. In fact, it outshot the Kings 26-15 in the game.

Justin Williams' wacky redirection of Slava Voynov's shot gave the Kings a 1-0 lead 44 seconds in. Nine minutes later, newly-acquired Tom Gilbert, making his debut after coming in the Schultz trade, got crossed up between Minnesota and Edmonton systems. He left Dwight King alone in front of the net because he was expecting a pass from Marco Scandella. He turned the puck over to Anze Kopitar after coach Mike Yeo said he was expecting Gilbert to be elsewhere.

"Poor [Gilbert] has no chance there," Yeo said. "He's so used to doing something that's different."

With 1:22 left, defenseman Justin Falk got burned trying to defend Kopitar's pass to captain Dustin Brown. Kopitar skated inside of Falk, lost him and buried Brown's goalmouth pass for a 3-0 lead.

Offensively, Yeo said there were "too many things missing to even have a sniff" against Jonathan Bernier.

"Puck support, battle level, going to hard areas, making plays, executing. It's kind of a long list," Yeo said.

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