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Koivu cleared to return for Wild after 8 games out

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu has been cleared to return to the lineup after missing the last eight games with a left shoulder injury.

Wild coach Mike Yeo said before Thursday's game against Vancouver that he expected Koivu to be back on the first line, centering Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to face the Canucks. That was the combination at the beginning of the season, but injuries and ineffectiveness have prompted Yeo to move Heatley and Setoguchi around several times.

"He's a big part of our team, and it's tough to replace him," said Setoguchi, the player who has struggled the most. He has 10 goals and eight assists in 40 games.

Koivu has played in only 41 of their first 53 games, but he still led the Wild with 24 assists.

"I feel good and I feel stronger, and the last couple days have been good," Koivu said after the morning skate. He took a hit to the shoulder during a game against the Blues in St. Louis on Jan. 14 and had to miss the All-Star game after his first career selection.

Yeo said he wasn't concerned about Koivu's conditioning or having to manage his ice time.

"We've been working him pretty hard. Hopefully we're managing it by getting him out there as much as possible," Yeo said.

Heatley has been hot, playing with Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson, but after some deliberation the coaching staff decided to reunite Heatley, Setoguchi and Koivu and move newcomer Erik Christensen to the wing on a second line with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Cullen. Brodziak and Johnson will play with Carson McMillan for now.

"Mikko, he's such a valuable player to us that we have to make sure that we're surrounding him the right way with the right pieces," Yeo said.

Defenseman Clayton Stoner was placed on injured reserve Thursday with an unspecified leg injury. Yeo called his status "week to week."

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