Mikko Koivu was nervous about getting back on the ice.
The first few months after the Wild captain had surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee were mentally draining, the toughest spell he had experienced since that center-ice collision in Buffalo ended his season Feb. 5.
When it was time to try skating again in mid-June, he wasn’t sure how he would respond.
But he moved better than he anticipated, an immediate boost that Koivu embraced.
“You get that progress that you’re getting stronger, that you’re getting better,” he said, “that gets your hopes up and your mind where it needs to be.”
Koivu took the next step in his recovery Monday, scrimmaging at TRIA Rink for the first time during training camp.
He won’t be in the lineup for the Wild’s preseason opener Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center against the Stars, but he could play as soon as this weekend.
Not only will that return to action signal he is getting closer to resuming his career, but it also puts him back on track to reach 1,000 games this season after his bid was abruptly halted.
And while continuing the pursuit of that milestone motivated him during the summer, Koivu is otherwise trying to keep his focus off a future that holds ample uncertainty for the 36-year-old veteran in the final season of his contract.
“I’m trying to enjoy every day now, and I’m happy that I’m back practicing and around the guys and I really enjoy that,” Koivu said. “So I don’t want to look too far ahead of ourselves on how it’s going to end up.”
In 14 years with the Wild, Koivu has scored 201 goals and assisted on 487, for 688 points — output that makes him the franchise leader in a host of offensive categories.
Chasing specific numbers each season, however, hasn’t been the objective.
Playing 1,000 times is.
At 973, he’s 27 games shy of the mark, a gap that could be closed as soon as Dec. 1 at home vs. Dallas.
Although he has a plan, Koivu doesn’t want to share a timeline for a return. But what he has shown on the ice has been encouraging, especially in the scrimmage.
“It’s a process that you feel 100 percent and you don’t think about the injury or you don’t think about when you go into the battle,” Koivu said. “I think at the same time, you’ve got to be comfortable out there and that’s the process where I’m at now.”
Linemates in camp suggest Koivu might find himself lower in the lineup than previous seasons, but wherever Koivu lands, coach Bruce Boudreau isn’t expecting Koivu to change his approach — that of a defensive stalwart who can also create offense.
“He’s going to fight for every bit of ice time that he gets,” Boudreau said. “He’s a proud guy, and he’s our captain and our leader. I anticipate him to come out here and defy people to be better than him.”
How Koivu re-establishes himself could hint at what happens when his two-year, $11 million contract expires.
While he’s trying to keep his attention on the present, Koivu acknowledged he has thought about life after this season, even if he isn’t sure what it will look like.
Feeling comfortable with his standing and understanding the situation he’s in are important to him, but those are factors that aren’t necessarily figured out in September. But if he homes in on what he can control, Koivu is confident the rest will take care of itself.
And with a comeback awaiting completion and membership to an exclusive club within reach, Koivu has plenty to keep him busy. Concentrating on those missions might help usher in the clarity that’s missing.
“Obviously I love it here,” Koivu said. “My family loves it here. I’ve always been here, and this is all I know. So I think a change would be a big thing. It’s new management now, so it’s all fresh start for everyone.
“I think that’s a great thing. But at the same time, what are [General Manager Bill Guerin’s] plans and all that … we don’t know. There will be a time to worry about that. I’m just worrying about right now and what’s ahead of us here for training camp and going into the season.”
14 roster cuts made
The Wild trimmed its camp roster to 55 after making 14 cuts, assigning Adam Beckman, Shawn Boudrias, Damien Giroux, Fedor Gordeev, Matvey Guskov and Hunter Jones to their respective junior teams and releasing Gabe Gagne, Shawn O’Donnell, Brett Pollock, Jordan Topping, Josh Atkinson, Lester Lancaster, Matt Register and Keaton Thompson from their tryouts.