Watching the Wild compete without him in recent weeks has been both easy and difficult for captain Mikko Koivu.
While the results have made him want to be on the ice, the Wild’s success since Koivu suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 3 in Florida has also paved the way for him to focus on his recovery and not rush a return.
“The feeling after winning and just the everyday life, being part of the team, that’s why we play the game,” Koivu said. “That’s one thing. [But] also, when we’re winning, it takes off the pressure of an individual who is out. You want to get back, for sure, as earlier as you can and all of that. But when the team is winning, there’s not as much pressure than if the team is losing.”
Koivu missed a 12th consecutive game Sunday, a 3-1 loss to the Islanders, after practicing with the Wild on Saturday for the first time since he was sidelined.
It looked like he might have been on the brink of getting back in action when he traveled with the team on a three-game road trip this month, but Koivu left the ice early in Vegas during a skate and was sent home for treatment.
Now, he’s staying patient to ensure that when he returns, he’s not only ready but effective.
“I tried to come back too early, and that kind of set me back a little bit,” Koivu said. “Also, as a veteran, I’ve done it before when I came back too early and can play the game, but I wasn’t building any confidence for myself and at the same time not helping the team. Every injury is different. Some they give a timeline. Some they don’t. As of right now, I just want to make sure I’m comfortable going out there.”
Focused on the present
Coach Bruce Boudreau peeked at the standings Saturday morning “for the first time in a long time,” but he doesn’t want the playoff race to become a focus.
“I’m hoping the conversation doesn’t happen until March,” he said. “It’s the same reason we do things on a weekly basis. It seems so far away [with 42] games left. It’s too much, too hard to think that far in advance. So, we want to keep everything short-term still.”
Home sweet home
Sunday kicked off a four-game homestand for the Wild and was the start of 16 contests at Xcel Energy Center over the next 19 overall, a stretch the team has been eyeing after such a road-heavy schedule.
No team in the NHL has played more games as the visitor than the Wild (24 times).
“We get to actually settle our minds a little bit, feel relaxed,” winger Ryan Hartman said. “I just moved here in September, and I feel like I haven’t been at home. It’ll be nice to be home, to go out to dinner somewhere. I haven’t been able to do that since training camp.”
World juniors update
Wild prospect Alexander Khovanov tallied two points, including the winning goal, and finished a plus-3 during 15 minutes, 48 seconds of ice time Saturday in Russia’s 6-0 win over Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
On Sunday, he was held without a point in a 3-1 loss to the United States but had five shots in 16:19.