Tag: Mikko Koivu

Mikael Granlund

Wild’s biggest question: Who will step up at center?


In addition to whether Devan Dubnyk can replicate his 2014-15 season, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Minnesota Wild heading into this season is at center.

According to NHL.com, Wild centers were amongst the least productive in the league last season combining for 49 goals. Captain Mikko Koivu led the way with 14 goals while Mikael Granlund accounted for just eight goals.

In order to improve in this area they’ll need more from Granlund – the 23-year-old, who centered a line with Jason Pominville and Zach Parise last season, will be expected to contribute more offensively.

“I don’t think anybody anticipates Granlund to be an eight-goal, 40-point guy for the rest of his career,” GM Chuck Fletcher said after signing Granlund to a new two-year, $6 million deal in July. “He is going to take off here over the next two years.”

The Wild also believe Charlie Coyle can be a full-time center. Speaking with Mackey and Judd on ESPN radio in Minnesota last week, Mike Yeo said Coyle would start the season at center.

Coyle scored 11 goals and 35 points in 82 games last season.

“You look at a guy like David Backes, for instance, he’s a centerman, he’s pretty much a fulltime centerman right now, but he spent a lot of time bouncing around,” said Yeo. “I like (Coyle’s) improvement at center last year, in particular, in his defensive game, I know he’s a real reliable guy especially to have a big body like that. You can throw him out there against an Anze Kopitar, who is (6-foot-3) and (225-pounds), you know he’s not going to get out-muscled down low. That’s a real valuable thing to have.

“What’s important for him now is if he can take another step offensively playing that position.”

More will also be expected of Erik Haula. The 24-year-old, who signed a two-year extension earlier this month, took a step back last season. Haula scored six goals and 15 points in 46 regular season games during the 2013-14 season. He added four goals and seven points in 13 playoff games.

Last season, Haula managed to score just seven goals and 14 points in 72 games.

“Just because he had a bit of a down year last year, we’re certainly not ready to give up on him because we’ve also seen the flip side,” said Yeo. “We’ve seen what he’s capable of and it’s just a process that these young kids have to go through.”

The Wild also lost Kyle Brodziak in free agency. The 31-year-old was amongst the top-scoring centers in Minnesota last season with nine goals.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Mike Reilly

Wild ’15-16 Outlook

Zach Parise

When looking at the Minnesota Wild, it’s easy to see their potential, but without making any major additions over the summer, are they in a position to get past the second round for the first time since 2003?

To a decent extent, Minnesota’s fate rests on Devan Dubnyk’s shoulders. This is a team that was in a free fall when he was acquired and his stellar play helped right the ship. Minnesota doesn’t necessarily need him to win the Vezina Trophy, but if he struggles mightily, as he did in 2013-2014, then Minnesota could be in serious trouble. Of course Darcy Kuemper and perhaps even Niklas Backstrom could step up to fill the void in that scenario, but Backstrom is 37 years old with a history of injuries while Kuemper is coming off of an erratic campaign.

Part of the reason why so much rides on Dubnyk though is because Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been anything to write home about. Which is a shame because in theory, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Mikko Koivu should make for a great core and when you throw in promising youngsters like Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle, the potential is there for the Wild to be more than a middle of the road team when it comes to offensive production.

That’s what they were last season though, in part because Koivu regressed while Granlund, Niederreiter, and Coyle weren’t able to make meaningful offensive improvements compared to their 2013-14 campaigns. Perhaps that will change this season though and if it does, that would certainly take some of the pressure off of the Wild’s goaltending.

As far as their defense goes, Ryan Suter is expected to once again play in nearly half of every game. Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, and Jonas Brodin are projected to make major contributions too, but the X-factor is 21-year-old Matt Dumba as he should play a bigger role in his sophomore campaign after being limited to 15:00 minutes per contest last season.

The makings of a contender are there. It’s just a question of if everyone will click this time around.

Stewart (upper body) will not play tonight


Chris Stewart will not play tonight in St. Paul. The Minnesota Wild forward is out with an upper-body injury. His status is reportedly “day-to-day.”

Stewart could be replaced by Jordan Schroeder, who was skating on a line with Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter this morning, but coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t confirm that.

Schroeder appeared in one playoff game versus the St. Louis Blues, but otherwise has not played this postseason.

The Wild trail their series with the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-0.

Wild’s Dubnyk shakes off six-goal night, saves 36 as Blues pushed to brink

Devan Dubnyk

The St. Louis Blues made a statement in their 6-1 win in Game 4, but the Minnesota Wild were not discouraged. Even after the Blues got off to an early lead, Minnesota persevered tonight to earn a 4-1 victory.

Vladimir Tarasenko opened this game by scoring his sixth goal of the first round and the Blues outshot Minnesota 12-3 in the opening period. However, thanks to a hard shot from Marco Scandella that Blues goaltender Jake Allen just couldn’t contain, the contest was tied going into the first intermission.

Minnesota took control from there with Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu, and Charlie Coyle each finding the back of the net.

After an outing he would probably like to forget on Wednesday, Vezina Trophy nominee Devan Dubnyk bounced right back tonight with 36 saves. He was the key factor in the WIld’s run to the playoffs and how far they go in the postseason will be dependent in large part by his play. If he has more games like this ahead of him, then St. Louis is in a lot of trouble.

As it is, Game 6 in Minnesota has become a must-win contest for the Blues. Although it’s of small consolation, St. Louis can take some comfort in knowing that the home team has lost three of five games in this series.

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Zucker (broken clavicle) returns to Wild lineup, one month earlier than expected

Tampa Bay Lightning v Minnesota Wild

When Jason Zucker suffered a broken clavicle that required surgery back in early February, the Wild said he’d be sidelined for three months.

Zucker made it two.

The 23-year-old drew back into the Minnesota lineup on Tuesday night for the first time since Feb. 9, marking a fairly impressive return from an injury that, originally, looked as though it’d rule him out for the remainder of the regular season.

When news broke of Zucker’s injury/surgery, team doctors gave a 12-week timetable for recovery. But he was back on ice four weeks after sustaining the break and, tonight in Chicago, will make his return in a pretty prominent role — on a line with Chris Stewart and Mikko Koivu.

It’s not surprising Minnesota wants to get Zucker right back into the mix. He was second to Zach Parise in goals at the time of his injury (18 to Parise’s 21) and was the team’s leading sniper at even strength. Wild head coach Mike Yeo praised Zucker’s maturation as a player this season, saying the 23-year-old’s progress “was so high this year.”