Tag Archives: Mikko Koivu

Wild Preps For St. Louis; Viewing Party Tuesday

Good afternoon, State of Hockey Legion! Hope your work weeks are off to a great start. Mine is a little busier than normal since Glen is spending the week with his family in sunny Florida, but no worries wild.com superfans (and I know there a million of you), I’ve got his back.

The Wild had an upbeat practice that lasted about 45 minutes at Xcel Energy Center this morning before departing for St. Louis. Both Mikko Koivu and Chuck Kobasew missed practice, but Head Coach Todd Richards said it was just a maintenance day for each of them and both should be back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Blues. Cam Barker and James Sheppard also took part in practice, but neither will travel to tomorrow’s game, nor will any of the other injured players.

An interesting side note from today’s skate was that much of the team was sporting the clean shaven look. I wasn’t at yesterday’s Wild practice, so I don’t know when exactly the razors came out, but I definitely noticed the lack of facial hair around the locker room today. I counted at least five guys that had trimmed nearly everything off, and I’m sad to say that includes Kyle Brodziak, who had been rocking his Movember stache for the last four months. Brodziak said he just decided to change it up but that it will probably reappear at some point. Farewell, Brodzstache. You made all of your fellow Movember dusters proud.

Onto the business on the ice, it was a fairly typical practice for the Wild, minus some line shuffling to adjust for the absence of Koivu and Kobasew. Richards did say after practice that he will start tomorrow’s game with different lines in hopes to get some productivity and chances in the offensive zone. That means the second and third lines should be shifted around, with Havlat possibly lining up with Cullen and Kobasew like yesterday’s practice. Jose Theodore will start in net tomorrow against the Blues.

In case you missed it, radio play-by-play man Bob Kurtz missed his first Wild game – ever – Saturday night because he was sidelined with a bad sinus infection. Kurtz had previously called all 912 Wild games – including preseason and playoff games – which in itself is an amazing stat. Kurtz is still under the weather so Kevin Falness will once again fill in for him. Feel better, Bob! Listen to Falness’ practice update in today’s PONDcast.

Finally, don’t forget to come join me, other Wild staff members and fans at the Wild Interactive Viewing Party tomorrow night at the Mall of America. Former Wild great Wes Walz will be on hand to sign autographs and there will be a ton of great giveaways including a game-worn Bouchard jersey, video game systems, Wild tickets and much more. Of course, we’ll have the Wild-Blues game on the big screen but the party starts at 6 p.m. so stop by. Get all the details here.

Clutterbuck And Koivu May Both Be Back Tonight

The Minnesota Wild has just wrapped up its morning skate in Vancouver, and the news is sounding good. Head Coach Todd Richards is saying that Cal Clutterbuck and Clayton Stoner are both in, and that Koivu is a gametime decision.

When Koivu was asked if he’ll take pregame warmups, he said, “we’ll see.” One would think that if he wasn’t going to, he would have just said “no.” And one would also think that if he’s taking warmups, he’s playing.

What a huge boost this would be to a team in need of a win against the best team in the Western Conference tonight. Of course, here in Minnesota, we always brush off that label when it comes to the Canucks. It doesn’t matter where they are in the standings, the Wild always seems to have its best ready. To have their best, it helps to have their best players and Koivu and Clutterbuck fit into that category.

Expect Niklas Backstrom to get the start in this most gargantuan of games.

I’m aware of some consternation as the result of two shutout defeats from last week, but I did some research and data analysis. By my calculations, a 4-3 loss counts for the same amount of points as a 4-0 loss, thus rendering the “shutout” tag irrelevant. Also, the Wild remains four points back of eighth place Calgary, with two games in hand, so the playoffs are still there for the taking with 13 games to play.

And, if the Wild can bag a couple wins over a too cool for school Vancouver team, and a Sharks team that has lost three of four, things are going to get very interesting come the weekend. Following this road trip, the Wild will play five of their next six games against teams on the outside of the playoff picture. The only exception is Montreal.

My point is, things are far from over.

And finally, as a product of the great white North, I have to comment on perhaps the most tension filled hockey day that the Duluth area has ever seen. On Saturday, Hermantown (which is basically a Duluth suburb) fought should-be Double A school St. Thomas Academy to the very end in an overtime defeat in the Class A state finals. That night, my alma mater Duluth East, fought Eden Prairie, a school with a student population right around 1 million, for three overtimes before finally succumbing. All the while, the UMD Bulldogs were tangling with St. Cloud State in a three overtime thriller to get to the WCHA Final Five. FYI – the Bulldogs won.

For folks who saw any of those three games, I’m willing to bet they won’t forget any of them. To use a cliche, those games are why we love hockey. So thanks to all the players and coaches and fans who were involved for creating those memories.

Now then, don’t expect triple overtime tonight in Vancouver, because it’s impossible. But, expect a Wild win, and it will be so.

Koivu Practices; Latendresse A “Maybe”

It was a big news day at Xcel Energy Center on Monday with who was and who wasn’t on the ice. So rather than meander through, let’s get down to brass tacks with some bullet points. And come back later today as Wild TV will have footage of Todd Richards (on Koivu and on Latendresse), Guillaume Latendresse and Mikko Koivu speaking with the media:

  • Koivu practiced with the team today and got a stick tap from his teammates prior to drills taking place. Koivu saw the doctor today, who said he continues to heal nicely. Koivu still can’t participate in battle drills, and he can’t fully grip the stick like he’s accustomed to doing, but it’s clear he’s getting closer. The captain will be on the team’s upcoming four-game road trip, and it’s possible he could return during one of those games.
  • Richards was asked about the status of Latendresse, and Richards said he would be a “maybe” for tomorrow’s game against Colorado. Said Richards: “Tomorrow, maybe. On the road trip, maybe. He’s getting close though.” Latendresse said he felt good during today’s practice, but he was hesitant to say he would be ready by tomorrow. “It’s hard to say,” he said.
  • Three players did sit out today’s practice, including Cal Clutterbuck. Richards didn’t have any further update on his status, other than that he is “day-to-day” with an upper body injury. Clutterbuck was on the ice prior to practice for the team photo. Clutterbuck was actually the first player out there and he started shooting a puck into an empty net for awhile, but that was the extent of his ice time today.
  • Andrew Brunette also sat out practice with an illness, which is likely the same bug that sidelined Kyle Brodziak and Chuck Kobasew earlier. Richards did not know if Brunette would be ready tomorrow or not, and said he wasn’t sure if a player would need to be recalled from Houston or not.
  • Clayton Stoner also was held off the ice with a lower body injury, but Richards said it was more of a maintenance issue, and Stoner should be ready to go tomorrow. The Wild will have seven defensemen available as Cam Barker is now back to full strength.
  • Niklas Backstrom is going to get the start in goal for the Wild against the Avs. Obviously, with back-to-back games in Nashville and Dallas on Thursday and Friday, both he and Jose Theodore will be used.

March Coming In Like A Lion

How is it already March 1? We have now entered the final full month of the regular season. Just 19 games remain, and here your Minnesota Wild sit with 72 points, tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Tonight, the Wild will cruise to the East Coast, bunk up in a hotel (or motel, depending on vacancy) and watch a bunch of teams jostle for position on TV. Long Island native Eric Nystrom may be the exception to that. He’s got plans to see his family and hammer down a home-cooked meal from Mom Nystrom.

As we all know, Eric’s dad Bob, played for the Islanders for 14 seasons and won four Stanley Cups there. Eric grew up skating on the same rink he’ll play on tomorrow night against his dad’s former team. See what Eric had to say about his return to the Island here. Matt Cullen talked to Wild TV about the team’s other stop, Madison Square Garden. See Cullen’s thoughts here.

The Wild is expected to welcome another callup to the Island tonight. Chuck Kobasew left practice early today due to illness and was heading to the doctor to get checked out. Head Coach Todd Richards couldn’t say for certain, but he suspected that Kobasew might miss some time if he has the same thing that sidelined Kyle Brodziak last week.

Watch what Richards told the media after today’s practice here. You can also listen to Richards’ thoughts in today’s PONDcast.

Other than that, it was a pretty slow news day out of Xcel Energy Center. Mikko Koivu did skate on his own for the first time today since his injury. Cam Barker also skated. Both players will stay behind and continue to work out with strength and conditioning coach, Chris Pietrzak-Wegner.

Koivu Won’t Require Surgery; Latendresse Practices

It was a good news/bad news day at the Minnesota Wild’s practice at Xcel Energy Center on Monday morning.

The biggest news surrounded the status of captain Mikko Koivu, who saw a hand specialist this morning. Bad news: Koivu does have a broken finger. Good news: It will not require surgery, and General Manager Chuck Fletcher fully expects Koivu to return before the end of the regular season and repeatedly used “a few weeks” to describe the time frame.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to give a more definitive time frame in a week or two when we see how the finger starts to heal,” said Fletcher.

Naturally, Fletcher was asked about the possibility of making a move at the trade deadline to replace Koivu.

He responded, “We’re very comfortable with our players. They continue to compete as hard as any team in the league. We love the chemistry of our team. The players play hard for each other.

“There isn’t a Mikko Koivu out there. That’s why we gave him the seven-year deal that we did. You just can’t find guys like this. You’re lucky if there’s one or two in every draft. None of them are available around the league. There’s nobody available like him. We’re not going to replace him, so the thing is how do we keep our team competitive? And what do we do to help our team win games?”

As for other good news/bad news, there was plenty more: Bad news: Martin Havlat did not skate after being involved in a scary collision with Jiri Hudler yesterday. Good news: It was just a maintenance day for Havlat, who is expected to be fine for tomorrow’s game against Edmonton.

Good news: Guillaume Latendresse practiced with the team for the first time today. Bad news: There is still no timetable for his return.

“It’s day-by-day,” said Latendresse, who wore the yellow no-touch jersey during the practice. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll be sore and I won’t skate, or maybe it will be good and I will skate. Right now we’re just focusing on having a few good practices in a row.”

Latendresse admitted that he can’t push 100% right now because of the groin issues, but his hip feels good.

Friday Practice Update: Team Talk, New Lines and Clutterbuck “Banged Up”

Happy Friday, State of Hockey legion. After a holiday lunch with the staff down at Wild headquarters, I thought I’d throw up a late post about this morning’s Wild practice.

After a disappointing loss to the Ottawa Senators last night, I was interested to see the type of practice the Wild would have this morning at Xcel Energy Center. And while the practice itself was a typical skate, if not for a little short so the team could get to the airport and fly to Calgary, it was a moment before practice that stood out.

At the beginning of practice, players arced around the white board on the glass as they normally do when a coach is outlining a new drill or something he wants to focus on in the practice. The only difference this morning is that it wasn’t a drill they were talking about. In a rather calm conversation, Head Coach Todd Richards spoke before John Madden, Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette and other leaders on the team talked. Watching from the stands, it looked more like students responding to their teacher’s questions, than giving a speech to the team.

When he was asked about the talk during his scrum with the media, Richards was noticeably succinct saying they were “just having a friendly conversation.” When pressed for a little more on the subject, Richards would only say, “We just talked about last night’s game. That was really it. Just wanted to have their thoughts on last nights game.”

When I asked if the players that were talking during the gathering spoke up on their own or if he was asking them questions, Richards responded, “A couple guys spoke up on their own, otherwise, I asked questions to certain players.” And while he was completely amiable discussing the topic, it was pretty obvious that Richards wasn’t about to share any more details on the discussion.

The entire talk on the ice only lasted a few minutes, but it was a pretty unusual moment and something I haven’t witnessed at a practice before. Certainly, it had some meaning for this team as it tries to get back on the winning track.

As for the practice itself, the team worked on a variety of drills including breaking into the offensive zone, as well as PP and PK. Clutterbuck was the only player missing from the ice today. Richards said Clutter was “banged up” but his status for tomorrow night’s game in Calgary was uncertain because Richards hadn’t spoken with the training staff yet. But Clutterbuck did fly with the team to Calgary.

As for the rest of the lineup tomorrow night, Richards said he had not decided who would start in net tomorrow and would probably make the decision on the flight. Matt Cullen practiced and Richards said he is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow night. If both Cullen and Clutterbuck play, as Richards said, “We’ll have to make a decision of who’s in and who’s out.”

Practice featured some new lines, including Chuck Kobasew skating on line with Koivu and Brunette, along with Patrick O’Sullivan on the wing with Cullen and Antti Miettinen. Richards said, “We may go into the game tomorrow night with them.”

Finally, as the team gets ready for a home-and-home series with a tough division rival, Richards said the focus is not the rivalry with Calgary, but coming away with wins. “Right now, it really doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s division, non-division – two points is two points. And we have to get points in games, regardless of who we’re playing.”

Finland Day Four/Five

For whatever reason, it feels like I’ve been in Finland longer than four days. Don’t get me wrong, I love this place. But my hotel room is starting to look and smell like a pack of Finnish reindeer had a party in it. Normally, I’m not one to utilize the housecleaning, but I’m going to have to relent. If anyone on the hotel cleaning crew is reading this, my apologies.

Today’s blog is going to inlcude last night’s game, and then the events of today (there weren’t many).

Last night, the Wild nabbed its first and only win from the preseason. First, the game stuff.

The Wild beat Ilves Tampere, 5-1, but were tied after two periods before beating Sami Aittokallio four times in the third.

Cal Clutterbuck was huge, burying three goals for his first hat trick since “two weeks before camp started at the St. Louis Park Octagon Camp.” All three of Clutter’s goals came on quick wrist shots from around 15 feet away. He was on a line with Matt Cullen and Casey Wellman, and they looked great all game long.

The other two goals were scored by Marek Zidlicky and Chuck Kobasew, and they were the prettiest two goals. Zidlicky worked a give-and-go with Mikko Koivu (who is rather popular here), and then kicked the puck from his left skate to his stick and then fired a wrister through traffic.

Kobasew fought off a defender in front of the net, and with the puck laying between his opponent’s leg, he jammed it on goal and under Aittokallio. Kobasew was upstaged on the play by a jubilant John Madden, who slapped his stick on the ice and then picked up the puck. He said it was his first point ever in Finland. He played here last year with Chicago, and also played two games for I.F.K. during the lockout.

The team bussed back to Helsinki through the darkness and made it back after midnight. That prompted Todd Richards to call off Tuesday’s practice citing the lack of rest his guys have had in the last two weeks.

The team did appear at Hartwall Areena on Tuesday, however. The 100+ Wild fans that traveled from Minnesota were treated to a lunch with the entire team. General Manager Chuck Fletcher gave an opening speech and answered some questions from the fans. As usual, he had some good one-liners, saying the team has really bonded here in Finland…maybe too much considering they spent all Saturday together on Sauna Island.

He also mentioned that the team will have to make the two cuts prior to Wednesday’s game. Those two players have been told they have been placed on waivers, but he didn’t say who they were. We’ll be able to post the names once they are claimed or clear waivers.

Once Chuck was done, the players then entered the arena restaurant which had a castle-style feel to it. The players spread out among all the tables to break bread and sign autographs for the fans. Even Bruce Oreck, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland was in attendance near the end.

The players have the rest of Tuesday to themselves. Tomorrow will be the final practice in preparation for Carolina on Thursday. The Canes arrived in Helsinki last night and were on the ice at Hartwall Areena for the first time today. They lost to SKA-St. Petersburg last night, but I can’t imagine they are too broken up about it. From all accounts, it sounds as if they were just happy to get out of there with everybody’s limbs still attached. Apparently, the Russian team was taking a few too many liberties with the skilled players.