When asked if he’d take where his Minnesota Wild team is at now upon learning that Mikko Koivu would miss eight games with an upper body injury, Head Coach Mike Yeo said yes. His team is still hanging onto a playoff position, and tonight, Koivu is expected to return to the lineup. His return coincides with the Wild kicking off a four-game homestand beginning tonight with a visit from the Vancouver Canucks.
The Wild closed out a three-game road swing on Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. A day after signing a two-year extension, Nate Prosser scored his first NHL goal for the Wild’s only tally. Niklas Backstrom took the loss in a 34-save effort.
The Canucks are rolling, having gained at least a point in each of the last six games, including a 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Byron Bitz scored a goal and an assist, while Ryan Kesler extended his goal streak to four games. Alex Edler scored the shootout winner in the fifth round while Roberto Luongo earned the win, making 37 saves.
Wild vs. Canucks will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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All fans at tonight’s game will receive a free pair of Wild gloves. Don’t kid yourselves. Winter still has a long way to go.
The Canucks are loaded with talent throughout the lineup, but as far as the Wild is concerned, there are two guys to worry about. And they look almost identical.
No player has scored more points against the Wild this season than Daniel Sedin, who has racked up two goals and six assists in the four previous meetings between the two clubs. His brother, Henrik, leads the Canucks and ranks second among all-time players in scoring against Minnesota with 54 points (8-46=54) in 66 games.
After Yeo publicly said he wanted one goalie to take the reins of this team, Backstrom responded. He’s now started three straight games with save totals of 37, 26 and 37. He is expected to make his fourth straight start tonight.
Koivu’s back. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Wild was starting to build some momentum for the playoff push. They strung together five very solid efforts with several players stepping up in their captain’s absence.
Now, Dany Heatley is playing his best hockey of the season, and he’ll get the Wild’s top playmaker alongside him. Those two will be reunited with Devin Setoguchi, who is looking to find the scoring touch that has been missing since the knee injury he suffered in December.
Koivu’s return means the first line in his absence will be split up. But Yeo won’t separate Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson. Those two have developed some great chemistry with Johnson constantly pressuring the puck on the forecheck and Brodziak playing a solid two-way game.
"The last game was obviously a disappointment. But what we have to be thinking right now is we’re playing playoff hockey right now. We’re not just going to go play some hockey and get to the playoffs. We have to play it right now.”
-- Mike Yeo when asked if he’d take where the Wild is at right now considering Koivu has been out for eight games
D Andrew Alberts is a Minneapolis native and played his high school hockey at Benilde-St. Margaret’s…D Keith Ballard is a native of Baudette and a former Minnesota Gopher…C Andrew Ebbett played 49 games with the Wild in 2009-10…LW Mason Raymond spent two seasons at Minnesota-Duluth.
With 29 games remaining, the Wild will play 18 of them at home. Thus far, the Wild is 13-7-3 at Xcel Energy Center.