Wild fans sometimes fret that the team is one Mikko Koivu injury away from big problems. Wild players may have to prove that theory wrong now.
One shift after scoring the tying goal in Friday's 5-1 rout over the Anaheim Ducks, the Wild captain blocked a shot with his left hand and never returned.
At least for one night, the Wild survived, beating the Ducks for the 11th time in 13 home meetings and creeping within a point of eighth-place Anaheim and three other teams.
"You lose a guy like we did, everyone's got to step up their game and try to fill in as much as you can," said Kyle Brodziak, who scored a goal and had two assists. "It's gut-check time. Everyone has to give that little extra."
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Wild won't know the severity of Koivu's injury until "Monday at the earliest," meaning he won't play Sunday against Detroit.
The looming question: Can the Wild survive an extended period without its No. 1 center?
"To me, that was the positive out of tonight's game," coach Todd Richards said. "We didn't have him and we stepped up and played a good game."
After Corey Perry's early goal, Koivu tied the score 1:31 later when he buried his own rebound after a determined drive from behind the net. But on his next shift, Koivu blocked Todd Marchant's shot, took off his left glove in pain and was not seen again.
"I saw right away when he blocked that shot that something happened," said Niklas Backstrom, who made 29 saves.
Koivu has missed five games in the past three seasons, but the fact he couldn't return the final 53 minutes is a bad sign. Short-term, the Wild can move Eric Nystrom, who scored his first goal since Nov. 14, to center or look to Houston, likely Cody Almond. If it's a long-term loss, Fletcher has until the Feb. 28 trade deadline to look for outside help.
But Friday, the Wild did an admirable job filling Koivu's large skates. Already playing short one forward because seven defensemen dressed with the return of Marek Zidlicky, the Wild got big contributions from centermen Brodziak, Matt Cullen and John Madden.
Players had to play outside their comfort zones. Martin Havlat, who scored a power-play goal, got rare penalty-kill shifts. Nystrom, always strong on the penalty kill, scored his first career power-play goal.
"The biggest moment came when Cullen scored a shorthanded breakaway, his career-high fourth shorthanded goal of the season. The Wild had killed all but four seconds of Cullen's goalie interference penalty when Brent Burns clipped Maxim Lapierre for a four-minute high-sticking penalty.
The Ducks won the faceoff cleanly. Lubomir Visnovsky slid the puck left for a Bobby Ryan one-timer. But out of nowhere, Brodziak intercepted the pass, looked up and found Cullen.
"Not often you come out of the box and get the whole rink in front of you," said Cullen.
Cullen ripped a shot over Curtis McElhinney's right shoulder for a 2-1 lead.
The concern now is Koivu's status.
"He's disappointed, as would any competitor," Cullen said of Koivu. "He's one of our most important players and has been so good for us. Hopefully it won't be long. I don't know if anybody knows. In the meantime, it's got to be a group effort like tonight. We'll step up."