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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Mikko Koivu practices with the Wild, talks about ankle, Team Finland

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: February 19, 2014 - 5:12 PM

The Olympic break is officially over for 16 Wild non-Olympians and a couple other injured players. The team gathered this afternoon in Edina to resume practice in preparation for its first post-break game at Edmonton a week from Thursday (Feb. 27).

Captain Mikko Koivu, out since breaking his right ankle Jan. 4 – an injury that led to a couple screws being inserted during an operation two days later, returned to practice. He’ll continue to ramp it up as long as his ankle feels good.

Today’s practice was about feeling the puck again for the team. A lot of skill work. The Wild coaching staff will up the ante Thursday with more competitive drills and begin to work again on system work.

Sixteen skaters and two goalies took part in today’s practice. Jason Zucker had a minor procedure on one of his legs and had a doctor’s appointment today, so coach Mike Yeo said he’ll have a better update on Zucker on Thursday. Perhaps we even see Zucker take the ice. Yeo also hopes defenseman Marco Scandella, who sprained his MCL in the second-to-last game before the break, rejoins the team soon.

Yeo expects that Nino Niederreiter will return to the country from the Olympics on Thursday. The team plans to give him a few days off. It’ll be interesting to see how it works with Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund. The two Americans and one Finn play in the semifinals against Canada and Sweden, respectively, on Friday, so they likely won’t be back to the country until Monday regardless if they win or lose.

If that’s the case, one can assume they won’t practice Monday or Tuesday, meaning their first practices with the team could come Wednesday in Edmonton the day before the game vs. the Oilers.

Josh Harding didn’t practice and there’s no change to his status. He hasn’t started since Dec. 31 and twice since Dec. 17 after having an adjustment to his treatment for multiple sclerosis.

The longer this goes, the less likely it is that Harding will be able to rejoin the team this season, but the Wild is holding out hope.

“We feel for him right now,” Yeo said. “We’re behind him and we just want to see him get better and get ready to get back with us. … We want to be here for him, so when he feels better and when he’s ready to rejoin us, we’ll be more than ready to welcome him back.”

Niklas Backstrom saw abdominal specialist William Meyers in Philadelphia over the break. He’s the doctor who performed his sports hernia surgery after last season. Backstrom said they know now what’s been ailing him, but he wouldn’t divulge it. Backstrom has said before he believes his season-long soreness is related to last year’s ailment. Backstrom said they have some new treatment plans and he hopes it solves the issue.

Yeo said the break should have helped Backstrom more than anybody else on the roster.

Erik Haula will play three games this week for Iowa and then the team will decide whether or not to flip him with Jake Dowell and bring him back. The team though has some roster decisions to make if Koivu is able to come back next week in Edmonton and/or Vancouver, and maybe that affects Haula. Obviously, Haula was playing great before the break, but the roster isn’t unlimited.

Jon Blum, a defenseman, is up now with Suter in Russia and Scandella hurt.

As for Koivu, he felt good today. The Wild’s not going to put pressure on him by announcing a target date. Obviously, the hope is that Koivu can return in Edmonton, but Koivu said today, “I think it’s the worst feeling watching the games and not being part of the team. As soon as I can, I will play. But I thought I would be ready right now in the Olympics, so I don’t really want to put a timetable on when I’m going to play. We’re going to go day by day. As long as it’s getting better each and every day, I’m happy.”

Koivu said his ankle felt “a lot better” than before the break, but he admits there’s still discomfort and as good as he looked today, even Yeo said you could tell he was laboring late in practice.

Koivu said, “I think it’s stronger, but it’s still a ways to go, too. For sure, it’s going to get better each and every day. Just trying to make the right calls now with treatment and get it still stronger and hopefully each and every day it’s going to get easier and easier.”

Koivu, who was supposed to captain the Finns in the Olympics, has been forced to watch from across the ocean. Teemu Selanne has captained Finland into a semifinal Friday against border rival Sweden. Mikael Granlund leads the Finns with three goals, five points and 19 shots.

“Obviously you’re very proud of them, the way they play,” Koivu said. “I have lots and lots of good friends on that team. For our country, it means a lot. No one expected us to get even this far again and we proved people wrong again. It’s a great feeling to see that, but at the same time, it really, really hurts not being out there and playing with them. I guess that’s sports. You can’t always be healthy. You ask why the timing and everything about that, but it is what it is. I’m just very happy for them. They’re playing great hockey right now and it’s great to watch.”

On why Finland is always able to play so well in international tournaments – world championships, world juniors, medaling in the last two Olympics (this is a team minus Koivu, Filppula and Barkov right now), Koivu said, “They have good players. That’s the first. Without good individuals, you’re not going to get that far in a tournament like that. We’re well-coached out there right now. They play for their system, good goaltending, great defense by the whole group. I think it’s just the whole team. That’s the word. It’s teamwork and team effort each and every night.”

On Granlund, Koivu said, “I knew he could be good. Especially against Russia today. He was great.”

On whether he’s looking for flights to Sochi, Koivu joked, “I don’t think they want me there anymore the way they’re playing.”

Yeo has been impressed with Granlund. He brought up how against Canada, to start overtime, he went head-to-head against Sidney Crosby.

“It can’t be anything but good for him, the fact that he’s performing at the level that he is, the fact that he’s doing it against the world’s best players, I think it’s been a tremendous experience for him. … As far as we’re concerned, he’s set the bar pretty high. We know what he’s capable of now, so we’re going to hold him to that.”

Yeo said the latter somewhat tongue in cheek.

The Wild will have a couple tough practices, take Saturday off, have a Sunday outdoor practice at 11 a.m. (open to the public) and Roseville’s John Rose MN OVAL and then really start to ramp it up next week.

I'll be on KFAN in a couple minutes.


Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
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Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
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Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
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Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
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Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
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Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 31 4th Qtr 14:54
Arizona 13
San Diego St 7 3rd Qtr 3:05
Oregon State 21
(2) Oregon 21 3rd Qtr 8:19
Washington St 21
Louisiana 3 3rd Qtr 10:04
Boise State 24
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
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Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
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Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
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Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
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Hamilton 25
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