Recovery by Wild's Koivu puts him back in command

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2014 - 9:36 AM

Now healthy, Mikko Koivu keys team’s rally.

hide

Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu (9) skates past Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski (43) as he sets up a shot on goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 17, 2014, in Boston.

Photo: Charles Krupa, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Mikko Koivu struggled to find the words.

“I don’t know how to say it in English,” Koivu, a proud Finn, said as he gnashed his teeth and looked off in the distance. The Wild’s 31-year-old captain finally settled on a word: “Frustrating.”

“I was very, very frustrated,” said Koivu, the feeling unmistakable on his face.

Koivu returned to the Wild’s lineup March 3 after missing eight weeks, 17 games and the Olympics following surgery on his right ankle. But those first five or six games, Koivu could not function at the level he expected from himself.

His ankle hurt. Skating was a chore. His game suffered, and so did the team.

“It was harder that I thought it would be,” Koivu said Monday, hours before scoring the winning goal in the Wild’s come-from-behind victory over one of the league’s stingiest teams with a lead, the Los Angeles Kings. “It’s not like it happens overnight and it feels good. It took a lot of time. I was very frustrated.”

Koivu’s ankle was throbbing (he described it as an unrelenting pressure), and it affected his skating, balance, shooting, playmaking, faceoff prowess — basically, everything. When Koivu returned from previous injuries, the warmer the ailment got, the better it felt. This frustrating injury was the complete opposite late in games.

“And this time of year, you need to get to your game as soon as you can,” Koivu said. “Sometimes it’s just not possible, but as an athlete, you don’t realize that always.”

But slowly, starting in Boston nine games ago, Koivu has begun to resemble the Koivu of old. He has split defensemen, made power moves, set up teammates, been a defensive stalwart and won big faceoffs. His play is a large reason the Wild has won three of the past five games with third-period comebacks.

In the past eight games, Koivu, the Wild’s career leading scorer, has 12 points and is plus-5. He’s riding a six-game point streak with two goals and seven assists, including three two-point games.

Thursday night, Koivu will lead the Wild into the United Center to face the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that dispatched the Wild in five games last spring and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

In that first-round playoff series, Koivu had no points. Linemate Zach Parise had one. Like Parise, Koivu said it weighed on him all offseason.

“It bothered me a long time last year how we finished and when you can’t help the team the way you want,” Koivu said. “You take a lot of pride in your game and you want to be at the level that you need to be. If it didn’t bother me, something’s wrong.”

Under pressure

Koivu heads into the final six games of this regular season and the postseason sounding motivated by last year’s individual and team failure.

“You can and you have to learn from the past, the good things and the bad things,” he said. “That’s something you realize as you get mature and grow up a little bit from your first years in the league. We did take steps last year. We didn’t finish the way we wanted. We learn from that. It bothers you and you want to show you can do better and we can do better as a team.”

Few players on the Wild are as scrutinized as Koivu. Critics pick and prod, wishing he’d sacrifice some defense for offense, that he’d shoot more, that he was faster. Maybe it’s because it’s his fifth season with the captain’s ‘‘C’’ or the fact that he has been Wild property for nearly 13 years, or because of his $6.75 million salary cap hit, but some seem to blame him for every pitfall, from no playoff rounds won by the Wild since 2003 to any losing streak.

  • related content

  • SCSU's Dowd signs with LA Kings

    Tuesday April 1, 2014

    Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan lose players early to pro contracts.

  • Mikko Koivu career statistics

    Tuesday April 1, 2014

  • Chart: NHL wild-card playoff push

    Wednesday April 2, 2014

    Wild-Card playoff pushWestern conferenceTeam Games left Points7. Wild 6 898. Dallas 7 859. Phoenix 6 8510. Vancouver 5 79Tuesday’s GamesDallas 5, Washington 0Winnipeg 2, Phoenix 1 (SO)N.Y. Rangers 3, Vancouver...

  • The Wild’s Mikko Koivu has gone from frustrated by an injury to motivated by an opportunity as the NHL season has played out.

  • The Wild could celebrate a third-period comeback against the Kings on Monday due in large part to the efforts of Mikko Koivu, right, who scored the winning goal, had an assist and won 14 of 22 faceoffs.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - C. Frias 2:10 PM
Colorado - J. De La Rosa
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 2:40 PM
Arizona - A. Chafin
Boston - C. Buchholz 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano
Toronto - J. Happ 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Washington - B. Treinen 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Wood
Miami - H. Alvarez 6:10 PM
NY Mets - D. Gee
NY Yankees - B. McCarthy 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - A. Cobb
Cincinnati - D. Corcino 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
Chicago WSox - C. Sale 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Cleveland - C. Carrasco 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Detroit - D. Price 7:10 PM
Minnesota - K. Gibson
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 7:15 PM
St. Louis - A. Wainwright
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close