When the puck clanked off the post and then off Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot and somehow still ended up wide of the net, it became abundantly clear that Mikko Koivu must have done something to anger the hockey gods.
That second-period shot, which could have immediately tied the score after Edmonton had just struck its first in a 3-2 victory Saturday, embodied Koivu’s recent offensive struggles. The captain hasn’t tallied a point since Nov. 24, a 10-game drought, and hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 28, a 23-game lull. He has just four goals and 11 assists this season.
“When you’re winning, it’s a lot easier. But [Saturday], when you don’t score on those chances and when you lose the games, obviously that’s when it gets frustrating, when you’re not able to help the team in that way,” Koivu said. “But all we can do is create and get in there and find a way. It’s a matter of the next one. You’ve got to work at it. It’s not an easy thing to do in this league, and sometimes you go through stretches that you’re not scoring. All you can do is get ready for the next one and make sure you’re ready when you get a chance and try to put the puck to the net and get out of it.
Koivu said he didn’t know exactly why the puck wasn’t cooperating with him.
“Sometimes you want to have more patience. Sometimes you have to find another angle to shoot it,” he said. “But it happens quick. Like I said, it’s a matter of finding the chance and finding the open spot. But you’ve got to be around the net. That’s where it happens. And that’s what I believe, and that’s usually where I score. And that’s where you have to be at it and be better.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau said he re-teamed Koivu with winger Mikael Granlund, whom he called the Wild’s “best offensive player” and “best playmaker,” as a way to generate some success from the center. And while that hasn’t manifested in the statistics yet, Boudreau doesn’t think Koivu is a complete failure.
“He’s a guy that A, has a lot of pride and, B, is a really good player,” Boudreau said. “The one thing about Mikko is, even if he’s not scoring, he’s defending and competing really hard. So I mean, we all want to see him succeed in scoring. And I think at this time last year, he had six goals. So it’s not an overly big difference.”
And yet, “I know it’s wearing on him,” Boudreau said.
While back-to-back games are a grind, with the Wild hopping on flight to Chicago just about an hour after its loss Saturday, Sunday’s tilt at the Blackhawks provides a chance for a quick rebound.
“That’s the beauty of this league, you get right back to it again,” forward Charlie Coyle said. “Prove ourselves tomorrow night, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
The Wild, which broke its longest winning streak of the season at four, has a chance to end Chicago’s current four-game win streak. Wild goaltender Alex Stalock also might play in his first full back-to-back NHL games.
“Anytime you lose, and at this level, I think, you want to get back as soon as possible,” Stalock said Saturday. “And for us, lucky enough, it’s tomorrow.”
Spurgeon on brink?
After the game, the Wild reassigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to the Iowa Wild, which likely heralds the return of the injured Jared Spurgeon, who has missed eight games because of a groin strain.
“There’s a possibility,” Boudreau said of Spurgeon playing Sunday. “It’s still day to day. I don’t know. We will find out.”
Murphy, 24 notched a goal and assist in nine games with the Wild since his call-up Nov. 27. He also recorded six penalty minutes, a plus-5 rating, 12 shots on goal and 11 blocked shots.