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Koivu takes another first step back from injury

Wild centerman participated in first scrimmage since the start of training camp

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- It was another first step amongst a whole slew of them for Wild captain Mikko Koivu on Monday at TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center.

After a summer of rehab following knee surgery ended his season prematurely last February, Koivu made it back for the first day of practice last week. On Monday, he participated in his first training camp scrimmage and came away pleased with the result.

"For sure some plays when I got the puck and when I make a quick play and things like that it's not quite there," Koivu said. "But I think that's reasonable. It's been awhile even if it's scrimmage it's still different than practice. Just getting into a rhythm and things like that. It was helpful."

For Koivu, he said some of the biggest challenges he faced were mental. How would the knee hold up in his first corner battle? How would it react to quick stops and starts? How about net-front standoffs?

"To be honest, I was a little nervous how it was going to go and if I'd be thinking about it and if things would come kind of naturally and things like that," Koivu said. "It was better than I thought it would be."

That's certainly good news for the Wild, who have an abundance of depth down the middle. Eric Staal is centering the Wild's top line with Ryan Donato, Koivu and Joel Eriksson Ek seemingly in the driver's seat for spots on opening night.

Victor Rask and Nico Sturm aren't far behind, also pushing the other four for ice time. 

With preseason games about to begin on Tuesday, that competition will ratchet up another notch.

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau hinted that Staal's line with Jason Zucker and Drew Stafford as well as Donato's line with Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello will draw in against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center.

Video: Mikko Koivu felt 'good' after scrimmage

"I think we'll have maybe 11 to 13 guys that have played in the NHL dressed," Boudreau said. "We'll probably have seven to eight forwards that have played in the NHL and 3 or 4 defensemen that have played in the NHL."

Minnesota will likely bring a younger lineup north to Winnipeg on Wednesday, where guys like Eriksson Ek, Rask and Sturm would be likely to get their preseason debuts. 

The scrimmage on Monday was the third in three days and the final one of training camp. It featured little in the way of offense, but it had plenty of intensity. At one point, forward J.T. Brown and defenseman Louie Belpedio traded punches.

"You can see that, as the game got on, the closer it got to the finish, the more they wanted to win, which is great. Nobody seemed to want to lose which is really good," Boudreau said. "And you could see there are guys that, when I say they're fighting for jobs and they know it, they're fighting for jobs. That's what you want to see is guys competing with everything they've got for jobs."

Stafford scored the lone goal of the scrimmage as his continues a strong camp on a professional tryout. He's skating on the Wild's top line as a place holder for Kevin Fiala, who is expected to join the team this week after signing a two-year contract last Wednesday.

Even though it's only been four days officially since the start of camp, Boudreau said the Wild is eager to play against a different uniform.

"One hundred percent," Boudreau said. "I would venture to guess they are champing at the bit to play against someone else."

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