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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Offensive additions has Koivu feeling hopeful

Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 15

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

If Mikko Koivu wasn't already the face of the Minnesota Wild franchise, the seven-year contract he signed that starts this season cemented that status.

He has committed to spending the prime of his career in the Twin Cities, and he is committed to helping his team find the postseason success that has eluded it in all but one season of the franchise's existence.

"I've always liked it in Minnesota. It has become my home, and it feels like going home," Koivu told NHL.com. "That's always been important for myself. The way the organization, the people back in Minnesota, have been treating myself, my family and my friends has always been first-class. I'm happy to be there and I'm calm about it, but obviously by doing a long-term deal you want to be part of a good team and that is my goal, as well.

Mikko Koivu
Center - MIN
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 45 | PTS: 62
SOG: 191 | +/-: 4
"I want to be part of that -- building the tradition in Minnesota again. People there love their hockey and that's why it is such a unique place to play in."

Koivu has become one of the top two-way centers in in the League, and the Wild were happy to plan on him being their No. 1 center until near the end of the decade. He missed 11 games last season because of a hand injury, but he had his third straight season of scoring at least 0.85 points per game, and he led Minnesota in points for a third straight season.

A couple new teammates not only could help give Koivu's offensive numbers a boost, but also his chances to return to the playoffs after two seasons of missing out. Minnesota General Manager Chuck Fletcher made a pair of bold trades with San Jose this offseason, dealing for talented forwards Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

"There were two ways to look at. If you want some good players, usually some good players go the other way, and that's what happened," Koivu said. "I played with (Brent Burns) for seven years and became good friends and that is obviously tough, but when you get good players back and you know they can help your team, it brings you a little more confidence.

"We're excited about it. I think it is going to be a fresh start with a lot of new faces. Hopefully this is going to be good for us."

Heatley almost is certainly going to start the season playing next to Koivu. Martin Havlat, who was dealt to San Jose in the Heatley deal, is a great player, but Koivu hasn't played with a goal-scorer of this caliber consistently since he ascended to the top line.

Koivu is an elite passer, and Heatley has four 40-goal seasons and six straight with at least 25 on his resume.

Setoguchi has three straight seasons of 20-plus goals as a secondary option in San Jose, and doesn't turn 25 until January. He also could see time on the top line next to Koivu.

"They are different players, but they can both score some goals. If I get a chance to play with either of them I will be very excited," Koivu said. "I know them pretty well as players, and I know they are very good players. I'm sure they are going to help our team a lot. We'll see."

Minnesota also has a new coaching staff to adjust to, with Mike Yeo replacing Todd Richards after two seasons. The Wild have been close, but they are banking on their new-look offense helping them take the next step.

"It will take some time to get used to the new systems and things like that," Koivu said. "Obviously we want to be better. We want to be one of the elite teams in the League. It won't be easy. There are a lot of good teams, but I think we have a chance to do that."

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round