Koivu injury a 'blow to the organization'

DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 23: Mikko Koivu #9 of the Minnesota Wild plays the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on January 23, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

It’s going to take everybody.

That was the message coming from the Minnesota Wild front office on Thursday, referencing Mikko Koivu’s season-ending knee injury. Koivu was involved in a collision with the Buffalo Sabres with about 8:55 left in the first period Tuesday night. The Wild got a point out of the game, but lost in a shootout.

Koivu got up immediately after the hit and skated back to the bench, but didn’t return. Tests done Wednesday revealed the worst possible outcome, a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. He’s expected to have surgery Friday and will miss the rest of the season, regardless of how far it goes.

He was fifth on the Wild with 21 assists, and had eight goals on the season in 48 games. More importantly, he was a top-line center and a key piece on the power play.

“We’re really going to miss Mikko because he might be the best player this franchise has ever seen,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But if you sit and pout and think woe is me, you’re going to be done. It’s a great opportunity for other people to step up and do things that he was doing, and take a lot of pride in doing that.”

Wild General Manager Paul Fenton called Koivu’s injury “a blow to the organization, and a blow to him.”

The injury forces another roster shakeup, something that’s become the norm the last few weeks between trades and placing players on waivers.

The current healthy centers are Joel Eriksson Ek, Eric Fehr, Eric Staal and recently acquired Victor Rask. Staal is the unquestioned leader of that group with 17 goals and 37 points in 52 games.

It seems Eriksson Ek is the player with the most potential to capitalize on Koivu’s injury. He was recalled from the Iowa Wild in time for Thursday night’s game. In 36 games with the Wild this season, he’s got two goals and five assists.

The timing of the injury is tough, with the Wild in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference with 57 points and three points clear of the No. 8 spot. The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 25, and the Wild front office has already made a series of moves to change up the roster.

Fenton acquired Pontus Aberg and Victor Rask in trades. He parted ways with Justin Kloos and Nino Niederreiter, and placed Nate Prosser and J.T. Brown on waivers.

With a little more than two weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, Fenton wants to see the current product on the ice before any more potential changes.

“Fortunately for us we still have some games left until the trading deadline and I want to see how our players play,” Fenton said. “It’s an opportunity for somebody else to step up and make their mark.”

The Wild host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night to continue a stretch of four games in six nights. Boudreau isn’t about to let the team feel sorry for itself between a slew of injuries, roster moves and a busy time in the schedule.

Boudreau referenced the Arizona Coyotes, who are dealing with all kinds of injuries and are only three points out of a playoff spot. They’re only six points behind the Wild.

“I look at every team in the league and they’re all missing players. Arizona is missing nine regulars right now and they still compete,” Boudreau said.

Fenton is anxious to see how the Wild plays against the Oilers. Minnesota then faces consecutive road games Saturday at the New Jersey Devils and Sunday at the New York Islanders before returning home to host the Philadelphia Flyers.