The Minnesota Wild will get captain Mikko Koivu back when it hosts the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
On Tuesday, Koivu crashed into the boards 1:21 into the Wild's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Koivu got up under his own power and skated to the bench, but was then taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
"I probably got lucky there in a way that nothing more happened," Koivu said. "It could have been a lot worse, but a good thing we're back here, and ready to play, and get right back at it."
The Wild won that game in Columbus, 4-2, playing primarily down a center.
"That was scary," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "As soon as he went into the boards, it was scary, and then you find out he's gone to the hospital. Obviously the test results and everything was clear, and he feels well, so that's good news."
In Koivu's absence, the Wild leaned on Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula, and Jarret Stoll down the middle.
Those four centers combined to play 62:42, with a goal, two assists, and eight shots on goal.
But Koivu's role on the Wild is one that Minnesota would be hard-pressed to fill long-term.
"Being on the road and getting that last change, and already being down a guy, their team has a major advantage there," Coyle said. "They can match whatever lines they want, and just those little things throughout the game that the coach decides.
"It plays a big part sometimes, but we did a good job of sticking to our game, and everyone pulling the rope a little more with Mikko gone so early."
The uncertainty of Koivu's injury stretched from the Wild's bench through Koivu, as they all collectively held their breath.
"You want to just know that everything is good, and you're healthy, and that there's no real emergency," Koivu said. "That's the first thing, and then it's trying to get better and get healthy as soon as you can."
But to everyone's relief, Koivu avoided serious injury, and should be good to play against the Flyers.
"You never want to see a guy — especially him — go down like that," Coyle said. "He's a big part of our team, he's our captain, and we need him in our lineup."
Defenseman Nate Prosser is still nursing a hand injury, and will miss the Wild's game on Thursday. Tyson Strachan, who made his Wild debut on Tuesday in Columbus, will dress for the second consecutive game.
"We saw [Strachan] in training camp, and the level and the pace right now is completely different to what we saw in training camp," Yeo said. "But he came in and did a real good job for us, and earned another opportunity tonight, so we'll see what he can do."
Forward Ryan Carter is also expected back in the lineup after missing the past game with a hand injury of his own.
A familiar face returned to morning skate as goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has missed the past five games with a mild concussion, joined his teammates.
Kuemper began skating with Wild Skills/Skating Coach Andy Ness over the Minnesota's four-game road trip, and is getting closer to being game-ready.
"This is a good first step for him, getting him out with the group, and let's just see how quickly he can regain his conditioning and his timing, and then we'll have to play that by ear as we go," Yeo said.
Coming off a stretch of four games in six days, and entering another one that includes a back-to-back this weekend, Yeo said he wasn't sure when exactly Kuemper would be ready, but that getting support in the crease would ease the burden.
"A busy stretch coming up, and pretty tough on [Devan Dubnyk] what he did last week, and pretty impressive what he did," Yeo said. "But not ideal to have to throw a goalie in there four games in six nights all the time."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Jason Zucker
Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Erik Haula – Charlie Coyle
Chris Porter – Jarret Stoll – Ryan Carter
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Matt Dumba
Tyson Strachan – Jonas Brodin