Mikko Koivu has had possibly the most frustrating season of his seven in the NHL. During the season's most critical time, the Wild captain has missed 15 games in a row and 23 of the past 27.
The season is 10 games from being over, yet he's about to return from a shoulder injury Thursday night against the Calgary Flames.
What can he possibly accomplish as his team is nearing mathematical elimination from postseason contention?
If you know Koivu, team goals, of course.
"Last game we showed we can play any team in this league. Beating Vancouver 2-0 should give us a lot of confidence going forward," Koivu said Wednesday. "We have 10 more games to go, and we've got our goals in the room what we want to show we can do in the last push here.
"Obviously, [it's] not the spot where we want to be, but all we can do is play as good as we can, as hard as we can the last 10 games and see where we're at after that."
Koivu will return to his normal No. 1 center position between linemates Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Coach Mike Yeo will monitor his minutes, but Yeo joked that Koivu wouldn't be too pleased if he doesn't get regular ice time.
Koivu said the Wild had to be patient and "make sure we don't do the mistakes that we did" previously. Koivu tried to rush back from the initial shoulder injury in January and aggravated his shoulder after only four games.
Now he feels good and is "nervous in a good way" to get back into action.
"You just see it in practice, it just raises the level of our practice," Yeo said of Koivu's presence. "It just raises the level of everything that's going on. It should provide a big lift for our group."
The Wild is 8-16-3 without Koivu this season, and the year's downfall began in December when he missed four games because of a knee injury.
"You look at what's happened with us, I think if anything we should all appreciate how valuable he is to our organization," Yeo said. "Certainly we lost some other guys, but he's such a warrior in the way he goes out. His will to win is so high that it's infectious on the rest of the group."
Some have wondered why the Wild even bothers to let Koivu play. If the Wild shuts him down, it arguably could further assure a top-five pick in June's draft.
But Yeo says the Wild is trying to change the culture of being a losing team.
"We want to win hockey games, and we know how important he is to give us a chance to do that," Yeo said. "He was really starting to play great hockey before he got hurt. For him to come back and hopefully build off of that and have something where he can feel good going into the summer is only going to help him that much more going into next season.
"We're not packing it in here. It's important to our organization as far as the mentality of how we see ourselves. We consider ourselves to be winners here. We want to do what winners do."
Lundin has surgery
The Minnesota homecoming for defenseman Mike Lundin has officially ended. The former Apple Valley High School standout underwent successful surgery on a sports hernia and should make a full recovery in two to three months.
Lundin, who started the season with a back injury, played hurt all year and was a healthy scratch often, had two assists in 17 games.
Defenseman Justin Falk, who has missed six games because of a knee injury, has resumed skating and might return next week.
• With defenseman Sean Lorenz's senior season with Notre Dame over, the Wild will sign the 2008 fourth-round pick to an AHL amateur tryout. He should join the Houston Aeros in Chicago this weekend and likely will soon sign an AHL contract for next season.
• Mikael Granlund, the Wild's 2010 first-round pick, is expected to return for IFK-Helsinki's first playoff game against cross-city rival Jokerit on Thursday. Granlund, like several teammates, missed several games because of a virus.