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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Mikko Koivu

Team Finland captain on young World Cup defense, Patrik Laine, Wild changes

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Team Finland and Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu:

GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- After missing the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of an injury, Team Finland captain Mikko Koivu won't take his opportunity to compete in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 for granted.

"When you miss a tournament like the Olympics, I think being involved with this, I think you appreciate that even more when you get a little bit more age," said Koivu, 33, who also is the captain of the Minnesota Wild. "It's only every four years for the Olympics and hopefully we keep this going every four years. But the years go by fast so you appreciate it a lot more."

Team Finland went 1-1 against Team Sweden in the European portion of its pretournament schedule. Koivu had one goal and two assists in the two games. It plays its final pretournament game against Team USA at Verizon Center in Washington on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN1, TVA Sports). 

In its first World Cup game, Team Finland will play Team North America at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports).

Koivu spoke to about the depth of Team Finland, the youth on defense and the future of the Wild last weekend.

Video: MIN@DAL, Gm5: Koivu nets second goal for win in OT

Here are Five Questions with … Mikko Koivu:

What makes Team Finland tough to play against?

"I think as always we commit to our systems and it all starts with defending well, trying to help our goalies as much as we can. For sure when you look at our goaltending it is, if not the best, one of the best in the world. And that's a good thing to have for confidence, especially when the games are best-of-1. It's going to be such a short tournament so you're going to need that good goaltending. That's part of it. I don't think the strengths of each country changes, and for us the team has always been committed to playing the game plan we need to and everyone is fine with their roles. There's been a lot of change and all that, but that can be our strength again."

Team Finland has a young group of defensemen, some players people in North America know well and some that are relative unknowns. What gives you confidence that this group of defensemen can help the goalies and be effective in this tournament?

"First of all I think it's good that they've all been in North America and they've all played on the smaller ice sheet, so that's going to help a lot. We also have a right- and left-handed shooter on each pair, so that will help. And I think just the passion they have and their willingness to win helps. They all have the skill to move the puck well and they can shoot the puck. They all have the qualities for what it takes to be an elite defenseman. It's a good mix and I know they're young, but it helps that they've played in North America before. I don't think it really matters how old you are. We picked the best team possible and they all earned their spot on the team. That's today's game too. If you look around the League there are a lot of young players. It's going that way more and more and we're lucky to have that, such a young generation that can be with the national team for a lot of years. They're already ready to play these kinds of games so that's a great team to have."

Talking of young players, let's talk about Patrik Laine. What have you thought about him as you've gotten to know him and gotten an up-close look at him this week?

"It's not even just this week. I ended last season at the World Championship and he was there. He has also been skating with us during the summer. I think we're all going to see his skillset and what he has, but I've been very impressed with his work ethic and the way he wants to get better each and every day. As long as you stay healthy and you have that, I think usually everything else will take care of itself when you have the natural skill that he has. It's been positive so far. And like I said, I'm very impressed with how he handles himself."

Let's also talk about the Wild. Does it feel like a necessary new and fresh start with Bruce Boudreau coming in as coach?

"Yeah, and I think we'll see that even more when we get there. Every coach will have their own way of doing things. It's not only the head coach, it's a lot of new members on the coaching staff. I haven't experienced that a lot so far so that will be a new thing for myself as well. But I think it'll be good, and at the end it'll be as good as we want it to be. The way we want to do things, we have to be committed from the start to get to know the systems and everything about it. It'll be interesting for sure. It's a fresh start and I think it's good for all the players. We're all on the same start, if you want to say that, so it's about us now and how we want to get ready to take all the new things and how we want to work to make the team game work."

How does the addition of Eric Staal help?

"First of all I think his experience will help. He's had a lot of years in the big role, a captain for a lot of years, and he has won the Stanley Cup. He's been involved and he knows what it takes, and especially the further you go in a season you're going to need that. He's a good skater, a big body [6-foot-4, 205 pounds]. You'll need that as well the further you go. He will give us a lot of depth and that's what you need. Even with that, and everyone knows his skillset and the way he can score, I think he's going to be even more having him in the room and his presence will be very important for us. Especially in the middle, to have that depth is huge. Maybe teams will need to do the matchups a little bit differently against us. I think that's huge. Now I think we do have that depth. The way we built our team, there are guys on the wing who can play in the middle. Especially in an 82-game season it will be very important."

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