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Mikko Koivu ready to return after nearly two month absence

Mar 3, 2014, 12:22 PM EST

MikkoKoivuC Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild still need every point they can get as they fight to hold onto one of the two Western Conference Wild Card spots, but help is on the way.

After missing nearly two months due to an ankle injury, Wild captain Mikko Koivu is ready to play tonight against the Calgary Flames.

“I’m very excited,” Koivu said, per the Wild’s Twitter account. “It’s been a long time. It’s been very frustrating.”

Although Minnesota has managed to get by without him, there’s no question that Koivu is critical to the franchise’s success. In addition to being the Wild’s leader in the locker room, he’s one of their best players offensively and on the draw. He also, as coach Mike Yeo put it, has a lot of intangible qualities that make the Wild a better team when he’s on the ice.

In the long run, Koivu is likely to center the top line, but for now he’s projected to play alongside Dany Heatley and Charlie Coyle.

  1. rebekah319 - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Been way too long (2 months) But Finally!!!! Welcome back Mikko how I have missed you!!!!

  2. guitarhunterdude - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    Niederreiter should be on that line over Coyle, IMO. Coyle’s done nothing to show he deserves top-six time this year, or at least not over Niederreiter.

    • getadealdonealready - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      Depends on what you are looking for, both Niederreiter and Heatley are not the best in the D zone, so putting Coyle on that line makes it more fundamentally sound in all 3 zones. I would disagree with your assessment of Coyle, for a young player he has filled any role necessary. Asking a young player to switch between Center and Wing is a tough task, and he has handled it very well, and taken care of the Defensive zone at both positions. He is a big, strong, smart hockey player that the Wild doesn’t have enough of IMO. This team is built on small in stature F’s, the rules change when you get to playoff’s and there won’t be as much open ice for those type of players, so you will need the big strong F’s to create space for our smaller F’s.

      • guitarhunterdude - Mar 3, 2014 at 5:48 PM

        Nino’s not a defensive genie, but he’s not a liability either. I’ve been fairly impressed with his two-way play this year compared to what I thought I’d see. Coyle’s solid in his own zone, but he’s really a liability on offense. Sure, he can hit along the boards, but that’s all he brings. He doesn’t seem to know where to be, how to get pucks out to the middle to generate scoring chances, just doesn’t seem to have good offensive instincts. I’d rather have Nino’s better offensive skills out there with Koivu, since a Heatley-Koivu-Coyle line will be pretty offensively inept. Heatley’s a turnover machine, and Coyle doesn’t have any offensive instincts. I know Koivu’s been able to carry outright bad linemates in the past, but Heatley’s just so slow now, and if you look at Coyle’s numbers, his first season (his first 82 games) he was worse than the guy who is usually looked at as the worst of Koivu’s old linemates, Anti Miettinen. And that’s with top-six (a lot of it top-line) and top PP time. I’m not in anyway saying Coyle is going to be that bad, I’m just saying that he hasn’t been better than that in his first full year, despite being given all possible opportunities to do so. Niederreiter, meanwhile, has been far better, while having his role and playing time all over the place all year. Both guys are pretty physical players, too, with Niederreiter going for more hits and Coyle being more of a strong on the puck guy.

        Also, if Coyle’s the better defensive forward, wouldn’t you want him with our other two defensive forwards in Cooke and Brodziak? If Nino’s a liability like you guys seem to think he is, you wouldn’t want him spending much time in his own zone, which he will if he’s on the third line. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to having Coyle over Heatley, but then we’re looking for someone to fill that spot on the third line.

        I know Coyle brings more to the table than just scoring, but he’s shown himself to be pretty offensively inept so far, and hasn’t been improving, and size by itself isn’t enough (just look at St. Louis in the last few playoffs for an example of that). A top-six forward has to bring offense to the table, and Niederreiter does that more than Coyle. Sure he’s not as big as Coyle, but it’s not like he’s a munchkin like Granlund. Coyle brings size and only size to the table, which just isn’t enough. Nino brings a bit of size along with some pretty high-level skill, both of which top-sixers need to succeed.

        With Coyle, I see two options. We could let him go down and dominate in Iowa for a year, hopefully learning more about how to run an offense on their top line, or we could put him on the third line and mold him into a defensive player who’s a borderline second-liner offensively (think 15-20 goals, 30-35 points a year). I’d be fine with either. But he hasn’t cut it as a top-six player in the NHL so far, outside of being a passenger with Parise-Koivu (where even Torrey Mitchell and Justin Fontaine were effective) and a flash in the pan in preseason. I’m not giving up on the guy, I just don’t see why “OMG HES BIG” makes him better than Niederreiter, who is almost the same size and far more skilled/instinctual on offense.

    • tved12 - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      I think Coyle controls the puck so well he’s great for certain lines, just not this line. I think you have him and Koivu who are great at keeping the puck in the zone and assisting, but neither seem to be great goal scorers. I don’t mind if Coyle is on the top 2 lines, I just think he needs to be with certain guys.

    • purpleguy - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Coyle also has been recovering from the knee sprain at the beginning of the season — he’s a better two-way player than Nino when healthy.

  3. valoisvipers - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Maybe now is the time to trade Heatley for that case of Gatorade.

    • spiciercheez - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      Honestly, as much of a liability as he is defensively, he’s been putting up numbers lately. He’s still as quick as a house but if he scores then I can handle him for the rest of the year.

      • getadealdonealready - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        I agree with you, but I would really like to see a little more offensive production to balance out the defensive deficiencies, especially on the PP.

      • guitarhunterdude - Mar 3, 2014 at 5:24 PM

        Yeah, I think he was still having back/knee trouble at the beginning of the year. As long as he stays healthy, I think we can expect this kind of production from him all year. Producing like he is, he’s still a semi-useful player, not the turnover-prone pylon he was earlier this year.

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