Koivu practices, but not yet ready for game action

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2014 - 1:19 AM

The Wild captain has missed six weeks after undergoing ankle surgery.

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Minnesota Wild's Mikko Koivu (9), of Finland, tries to get a goal past Philadelphia Flyers' Mark Streit (32), of Switzerland, and Flyers' Steve Mason (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, in Philadelphia.

Photo: Matt Slocum, Associated Press - Ap

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Mikko Koivu would love to be in the lineup when the Wild resumes its post-Olympics schedule next week in Edmonton, and the feeling is mutual from Mike Yeo. But the Wild captain and Wild coach stopped short of declaring next Thursday as the targeted return for Koivu.

“It’s the worst feeling watching the games and not being part of the team,” said Koivu, who participated in the Wild’s first practice Wednesday since the Olympic break started Feb. 7. “As soon as I can, I will play. But I thought I would be ready right now in the Olympics [for Finland], so I don’t really want to put a timetable on when I’m going to play.

“As long as it’s getting better each and every day, I’m happy.”

Koivu broke his right ankle Jan. 4. He underwent surgery two days later and was forced to bow out of captaining his native Finland in the Olympics.

He looked well-rested during Wednesday’s practice, a peculiar one because the Wild was short six bodies. Mikael Granlund, playing for Finland, and Team USA standouts Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are still in Russia. Swiss forward Nino Niederreiter was on his way back, while defenseman Marco Scandella and winger Jason Zucker are injured.

“The guys looked good considering the time we had off,” Yeo said. “They started to fade a little bit toward the end, but they pushed through it.”

Koivu says he has a “ways to go” and must get his ankle stronger so it gets “easier and easier” to navigate the ice.

Yeo said there’s no pressure on Koivu: “When he’s ready, he’s ready.”

Koivu, who won a silver medal at the 2006 Olympics and a bronze in 2010, has been forced to watch his Finns from across an ocean. As proud as he is of his friends, he would give anything to center Finland’s first line against its largest rival, Sweden, in Friday’s semifinals.

“For our country, it means a lot,” Koivu said. “At the same time, it really, really hurts not being out there and playing with them. I guess that’s sports. … You ask why the timing and everything about that, but it is what it is. I’m just very happy for them.”

Granlund assisted on Teemu Selanne’s winning goal and scored a backbreaking goal in Finland’s quarterfinal win over Russia. Granlund leads Finland with three goals and five points in four games.

“Playing aside [Granlund] on the first line is a dream come true for me,” Selanne, a future Hall of Famer, told reporters in Russia on Wednesday.

Yeo noted how Granlund opened a recent overtime against Canada by going 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,” said Yeo, adding with a smile, “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.”

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