Wild notes: Koivu brothers vie for Finland's captaincy

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2013 - 10:58 PM
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According to coach Erkka Westerlund, either Saku Koivu (11) or the Wild’s Mikko Koivu (9) will be Finland’s captain for the Sochi Olympics. Westerlund also said he will consult with veteran Teemu Selanne (8) and others about the decision.

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– Sibling rivalries are common, but Wild center Mikko Koivu and Anaheim Ducks center Saku Koivu disagree on which Koivu brother should captain Finland during February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Mikko, 30, the Wild captain since 2009, said it should be Saku. Saku, 39, the longtime former Montreal Canadiens captain, said it should be Mikko.

Maybe another Finn should break the tie.

“I think Mikko has had the torch for a few years, and I don’t know why we should change that,” Ducks future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne, 43, said Wednesday.

Saku Koivu has donned the “C” in most international tournaments for Finland since 1998, but it was Mikko who captained Finland to gold at the 2011 world championships.

“We both have experience with it and I kind of understand where he’s coming from,” Saku Koivu said. “He feels as an older player who has done it, this could be my last tournament for the national team, and he feels like he’s showing appreciation to me.

“Maybe he feels more comfortable with me having it, but this is a younger team than when I was there, and Mikko has been captain for a lot of these guys.”

Both Mikko and Saku say they haven’t discussed it personally yet and don’t plan to until Team Finland chooses its Olympic team next month.

“Either way, this will be special for Mikko and me,” Saku Koivu said. “We played in Torino and Vancouver and the Olympics are a very special experience for an athlete. When you put on your country’s jersey with your brother, it’s one of those moments you share and it’ll be something in our memories for a long time.”

Wednesday was the 18th head-to-head meeting between the Koivus. Mikko has 12 points to Saku’s seven, but Saku’s Canadiens and Ducks are 11-3-4 against the Wild.

Mikko still remembers the first meeting Dec. 17, 2005. In overtime, Mikko stole the puck from Saku before Brian Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard set up Kurtis Foster’s winner.

“But do you remember the first shift of the game?” Mikko said. “They scored. [Andrei] Markov [39 seconds in after Saku won the opening faceoff]. I was like, ‘This is not happening.’ ”

Brodziak hits milestone

Center Kyle Brodziak, the first player Chuck Fletcher traded for when he became Wild general manager in 2009, skated in his 500th game Wednesday. This is Brodziak’s fifth season with Minnesota. He has been on the roster for 327 games, having played in 325. He missed two games with the flu in 2010-11.

“It’s an accomplishment, but those are more things to think about when you’re done in your career,” Brodziak, 29, said. “I’ve been lucky so far. A lot of injuries are a twist of bad luck. Fortunately to this point — knock on wood, I’ve been able to avoid that.”

Brodziak entered Wednesday with no goals in 20 games and two goals and nine points in 32 games. But coach Mike Yeo doesn’t judge Brodziak by goals and assists.

He’s the Wild’s checking-line center, so his job relies largely on defense. From Oct. 17 to Nov. 20, Brodziak was on the ice for two even-strength goals against in 16 games.

“We are where we are right now because of guys like Brodzy,” Yeo said. “He understands what we need him to do and he’s been bringing it. I’m more happy as of late that he has picked up his physical play. He’s playing with more of an edge in his game, and with that, he’s been playing faster, playing harder, playing stronger defensively.”

Junior achievement

The Wild officially assigned defenseman Matt Dumba to Team Canada on Wednesday so he can compete in the world junior championships Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden. Dumba is expected to be Canada’s No. 1 defenseman.

The assignment gives the Wild more roster flexibility. Its roster now includes 22 players — one less than the maximum — and gives Minnesota more salary-cap space.

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