The Minnesota Wild may be on a two-game winning streak, but they’re about to face their toughest challenge yet.
Already missing a top line left wing, No. 1 goaltender and top-3 defenseman, the Minnesota Wild will drop the puck tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Kings without its captain and top line center Mikko Koivu. The team announced today that Koivu underwent successful surgery to repair a fractured right ankle.
The injury was sustained off a Nicklas Backstrom attempted dump in Saturday night’s 5-3 home win over the Washington Capitals. Koivu immediately collapsed to the ice in pain and had to be helped down the tunnel to the locker room. He would return to the game, however, collecting assists the first two goals of defenseman Ryan Suter’s hat trick. It became apparent later in the game that he was in considerable discomfort and eventually left the game completely.
Koivu was placed on Injured Reserve earlier this morning and will be out at least four weeks. He currently leads the Wild in scoring with eight goals and 27 assists for 35 points in 44 games this season. With his captain and top line center out for so long a period, GM Chuck Fletcher may be forced to act quickly if he is to turn Minnesota’s season around.
In other news, Wild winger Nino Niederreiter has officially been added to Team Switzerland’s roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia next month.
Drafted 5th overall by the New York Islanders in 2010, the talented winger was on Minnesota’s radar for a long time before they would finally acquire him in return for Cal Clutterbuck and a 2013 third round pick. Niederreiter has been right at home ever since, scoring eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 44 games playing alongside veterans like Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, and up-and-coming fellow 2010 first and second rounders Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Brett Bulmer. There’s no question he’s been a major highlight amid the growing pains of Minnesota’s youth movement.
Finally, Wild assistant captain Ryan Suter has been named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week. Last week, Suter would score four goals and two assists for six points and a plus-6 rating.
The highlight of Suter’s week came Saturday night against the Capitals when last year’s Norris finalist scored on a slapshot, a wrister from the bue line and a two-on-one wrister from fellow defenseman Clayton Stoner. Minnesota’s No. 1 defenseman leads all NHL skaters in average ice-time per game and has scored five goals and 24 assists for 29 points. His average ice-time per game of 29:40 is a full two minutes more than the next closest skater. Suter will be featured prominently on Team USA’s blue line in next month’s Winter Olympic games.
No news on the Matt Dumba front, though it does appear Fletcher is leaning towards returning the 2012 7th overall pick to Portland of the Western Hockey League. The decision does seem to hinge on the results of the rookie defenseman’s visit with the team doctors regarding his health during the 2014 U-20 WJHC.