With captain and lone All-Star Mikko Koivu out for roughly a month with a shoulder injury, the Wild must adjust to life without their leader in points, plus-minus, shorthanded goals and time on ice among forwards.
Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher knows the adjustment won’t be easy.
“Clearly he’s an irreplaceable player,” Fletcher told NHL.com. “There’s nobody on your farm team that can come up and replace his role or the job that he does.”
Fletcher knows a thing or two about replacements from the farm. He’s been forced to rely on his minor league team extensively this season — tonight against Philadelphia, the Wild will dress four forwards that began the year with AHL Houston: Warren Peters, David McIntyre, Casey Wellman and Carson McMillan, who’ll be making his season debut.
The constant call-ups no longer faze head coach Mike Yeo.
“I think we’re used to that at this point,” Yeo said of the constantly changing lineup. “The one thing that’s going to be really important for us, with Mikko being out, we didn’t handle it too well last time. We have to prove to ourselves that we can do a better job of that this time.”
Proving it won’t be easy. Minnesota’s lost the first two of a four-game road trip and faces a tough test tonight in Philly then another one Thursday in Toronto. After that, the Wild play four of their next six on the road with two stops in Colorado, one in Dallas and one in Columbus.
For an eighth-place team that’s clinging to its playoff life right now — Minnesota’s one point up on ninth-place Colorado and two on 10th-place Dallas — this upcoming stretch is crucial.