Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Koivu believes he will return to the lineup before the Olympic break

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 11, 2014 - 12:53 PM

Mikko Koivu, on crutches, met with members of the media after the Wild’s morning skate today. It didn’t take long to get the impression that, while the pain in his surgically-repaired right ankle is already fading, it will take much longer for his frustration to do the same.

He, along with other key Wild players, has to watch his team play. And then there is the question of the upcoming Winter Olympics, where he is expected to captain the Finnish team.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I haven’t thought about it,” said Koivu, who took a puck to the skate in the Wild’s game with Washington Jan. 4. He left the game briefly, then returned long enough to pick up assists on two Ryan Suter goals before ultimately leaving the game for good. He had surgery two days later. The prognosis for his return is about four weeks.

“More than anything, I think it’s just the frustration, when you’re in the middle of the season, you feel good and we were starting to get on a roll again, things like that,” Koivu said. “The frustration, that’s the biggest thing, not being able to do the things with the team.’’

The Washington victory was the team’s second straight after ending a six-game losing streak. Since then the injury-riddled Wild has won two more and is bringing four-game winning streak into tonight’s game with Colorado.

That said, Koivu  said he believes he will play in the Olympics, and he is confident he will have returned to action with the Wild before the Olympics begin. Given the general four-week timetable, that will be cutting it close. The Wild plays 13 more games before breaking for the Olympics, with games Feb. 1, 4 and 6.

“I’m pretty confident on the Olympics, that I’ll be there,” Koivu said. “But it’s too early to make that call. What the time schedule will be, I don’t know that right now. I don’t think anyone does. But, talking to people who have had (the same surgery), and talking to the doctors, I think I’ll be playing games here before the Olympics start.’’

Asked if he’d be willing to wear extra skate protection going forward, Koivu wavered, saying he’d heard the protection makes skating less comfortable. “If they can make a good one, make it comfortable? I’m sure I’d wear one,” he said. “But we’ll see.”

Here are some other notes from this morning:

--Josh Harding skated on his own with goalie coach Bob Mason before the rest of the team took the ice Saturday. Wild coach Yeo says it's a good sign for Harding, who has missed the past four games due to not feeling well. Prior to a two-game return in losses to the Islanders and St. Louis, Harding missed another four games to make what was termed "a minor adjustment" to his treatment protocol for multiple sclerosis. Yeo said it was a good sign to see Harding on the ice, but didn’t have a specific timetable for Harding’s return. “I talked to him this morning and he’s been feeling better the last couple days,” Yeo said. “So we’ll look for him to join the group here soon.

--Yeo said there is no specific timetable for Zach Parise to return to practice. Parise, who has a broken foot, has missed eight straight games.  Yeo said the hope is for Parise to get back on the ice next week, most likely skating on his own a few times before the decision is made for him to return to practice. “He’s getting there,” Yeo said. “He’s feeling better. Obviously, we’d be very anxious for him to rejoin the group here. So, hopefully, sometime next week we can get him with us.’’

--Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (foot) is scheduled to meet with a doctor some time Saturday evening, after which a timetable for his return to action might be available.

--Yeo said he’d be going with the same lineup tonight as he did in Phoenix, which means defenseman Jonathon Blum will be in the ice again. Yeo wouldn’t say who would start in goal, but it appears Niklas Backstrom will get the start tonight, with Darcy Kuemper going tomorrow in Nashville. 

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