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Wild moving forward without Koivu

Minnesota looking within to replace center, who is out for rest of season with knee injury

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild aren't feeling sorry for themselves after the loss of center Mikko Koivu, who will miss the rest of the season because of a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee.

"I look at every team in the League, and they're all missing players, Arizona is missing nine regulars right now, and they still compete every night," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said ahead of Minnesota's game against the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; FS-WI, FS-N+, SNW, NHL.TV). 

"So, yeah, we're really going to miss (Koivu) because he's one of the best players, he might be the best player this franchise has ever seen. But if you sit and pout and go 'Woe is me,' you're going to be all done. It's a great opportunity for other people to step up and do things he was doing and take a lot of pride in that."

Video: How Koivu's season-ending knee injury impacts Wild

The Wild's 35-year-old captain was injured during a 5-4 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Tuesday and is expected to have surgery Friday. He had 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) and a 54.6 faceoff win percentage in 48 games this season. 

Minnesota (26-22-5) has the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with 57 points.

The Wild recalled center Joel Eriksson Ek from Iowa of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and recently acquired center Victor Rask from the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Nino Niederreiter on Jan. 17. They are expected to fill the void in the middle along with Eric Staal and Eric Fehr.

"Joel Eriksson Ek is a very, very good player that now will get an opportunity to play top-nine minutes," Wild general manager Paul Fenton said. "When we made the trade for Rask a couple weeks ago, we mentioned you can't have enough centers. Well, now we have another center to utilize and now we're going to go forward and try to make this work."

Fenton said even without Koivu for Minnesota's remaining 28 regular-season games, his strategy as the Wild approaches the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb 25 at 3 p.m. ET remains unclear. He will use the Wild's nine remaining games before the deadline to assess and make decisions on buying and selling players.

"I want to see how our players play," Fenton said. "We've added some pieces, we've made some changes to our team. Let's see how we play for the next little bit.

"(Koivu's) defensive ability, his leadership, it's irreplaceable right now. But that's why it can't be one piece. It has to be everybody that's doing it."

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