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

Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 5
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 9 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Greene 4
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 4 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 7
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Peacock 8
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: L. Oliveros 3
Texas - LP: M. Kirkman 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 2
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 6
San Francisco - WP: G. Kontos 12 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 7
Seattle - WP: J. Paxton 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 5
Washington - LP: D. Fister 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4
Arizona - LP: B. Ziegler 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: K. Quackenbush 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 78 FINAL
Phoenix 96
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