With the Olympic hockey tournament quarterfinal round wrapping up today, the Wild resumed this afternoon with a practice at Braemar Arena in Edina.
Returning to the ice with his team was captain Mikko Koivu, who skated with the Wild for the first time since breaking his ankle on Jan. 4. Of course, Koivu wasn’t ready to return to action and opted out of Team Finland for the Olympics and used the break to recover after surgery.
“It felt okay,” Koivu said. “It’s a lot better, stronger…I’m pretty sure it’s going to get better each and every day.”
The Wild’s first game after the break is on Feb. 27, when the team travels to Edmonton. However, Koivu isn’t necessarily looking at that game as his return to action, at least that’s how he’s approaching his recovery.
“As soon as I can, I’ll play,” Koivu said. “I don’t want to put a timetable on it.”
Although Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo used today as a flow and skill day, the team did have a four-on-four scrimmage at the end of practice, and Koivu was a full participant and didn’t look like he was easing up from any (incidental) contact. Yeo said tomorrow’s skate will be a little more structured and would be a good gauge for the captain.
It was tough for Koivu to miss the Olympics, but he admitted today that injuries are a part of sports. He hasn’t watched all of Finland’s games, but did see them top Russia, 3-1, in the quarterfinals today. The Finns were led by Wild center Mikael Granlund, who had a goal and an assist. Koivu said he's been proud of Granlund and the way the team has played.
“As far as we’re concerned, he’s set the bar pretty high over there,” Yeo said about the forward’s Olympic performance.
Finland will face Sweden on Friday for a chance to play in the Gold Medal Game.
In other quarterfinal Olympic action, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise paced Team USA in a 5-2 drubbing of the Czech Republic. Suter had three assists in the game, while Parise scored his first goal of the tournament. According to the game broadcast, it was Parise’s fifth goal in an elimination game, while he has been held off the goal column during preliminary play. Team USA will face Canada in the other semifinal game in a rematch of the 2010 Gold Medal Game in Vancouver, which the Canadians took in overtime.
Unfortunately, Nino Niederreiter and Team Switzerland’s Olympics came to an end yesterday. However, Yeo said that he expects Niederreiter to return tomorrow, but will decide if he gives the forward some time off before skating with the team.
In other Wild injury news, Marco Scandella and Jason Zucker both didn’t skate today. Scandella suffered a sprained knee on Feb. 4 against Tampa Bay. Zucker underwent a minor procedure. Yeo didn’t comment on either of their status, but being the first day back, said he’d expect a better update tomorrow.
With the team shorthanded, the Wild recalled forward Jake Dowell and defenseman Johnathon Blum from Iowa, the team's American Hockey League affiliate.