The Wild gets its captain back as Minnesota hosts the Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center. Mikko Koivu will return to the lineup for the first time in 15 games since re-aggravating an upper body injury. Overall, Koivu has been out for 23 of the past 27 contests due to the injury.
His return means a number of things for the Wild. First, Minnesota gets its leader back, the man who Head Coach Mike Yeo called a warrior. Second, he’ll center a line with Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, and hopefully spark their games offensively. Finally, players who have had to play outside of their roles will be able to focus more on their particular tasks instead for trying to fill the shoes of Koivu. His biggest impact on the game might be in the energy he brings to the Wild against its division rival.
On Monday, the Wild blanked the Vancouver Canucks, 2-0. Josh Harding played lights out, making 33 saves in the shutout to earn his 10th win of the season. Erik Christensen’s second-period power play goal proved to be the winner and Kyle Brodziak iced the game with an empty netter.
The Flames lost 2-1 in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. Matt Stajan scored Calgary’s lone goal. Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves in the loss.
Wild vs. Flames 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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The NCAA National Champions, University of Minnesota Women’s Hockey Team will be at Xcel Energy Center and recognized during the first period. The Gophers won its third NCAA Championship, and first since 2005, defeating Wisconsin in the title game on Sunday at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth.
Tonight marks the final meeting between Minnesota and Calgary. The Flames have had the Wild’s number this season, taking four of five games. Two of those wins coming in one-goal games.
Calgary is in 11th place in the Western Conference, but only two points out of eighth. There is a logjam in the West, with only three points separating five teams in the seventh through 11th spots.
Kyle Brodziak is one of those players who can fit into any role, and lately it’s been the role of scoring dynamo. He has either scored or assisted on the last six Wild goals. In his last four games he has seven points (3-4=7) including five in his last two (2-3=5).
Koivu’s return to the lineup means a number of things, one being special teams play. With Koivu out, recently the second unit has been more productive than the first. Koivu’s playmaking skills and ability to protect the puck will help Heatley and Setoguchi get into goal-scoring spots on the ice.
Along with adding an offensive punch, Koivu is one of the better defensive centermen in the league. He chews up time on the PK by using his frame to rag the puck along the sidewalls and end boards.
As much as the Wild is excited to get Koivu back after missing 15 games, conditioning may factor into how much ice he sees. Nothing gets a player into game shape like playing games and Koivu hasn’t been in one for more than a month.