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Wild's captain ready and eager for games to matter

Koivu finishes exhibition season strong with goal Sunday in loss to Winnipeg

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- When Wild training camp began just over two weeks ago, there were serious questions as to whether Mikko Koivu would really be 100 percent heading into the start of the regular season.

A torn anterior cruciate ligament is not an easy injury to rehab from. Wild forward Luke Kunin tore his in March of 2018 and wasn't right for months. When last season began, Kunin still wasn't ready for game action.

Kunin tore his about a month later into the season than Koivu did last season, but there were other factors that had Wild coach Bruce Boudreau anxious.

"It took [Kunin] to Christmas to really start to hit his stride and then you start thinking, look at [Koivu's] age, look at the injury," Boudreau said. "[But] the thing that you thought for sure is that he's such a competitor that he would work hard or harder than anybody to get ready to show people that he was ready to get back."

Video: WPG@MIN: Koivu tallies with quick redirection

If the Wild's now completed exhibition season did anything, it proved that Koivu is indeed ready for the start of the regular season. 

Minnesota's captain played in his third preseason game on Sunday afternoon and scored his first preseason goal in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets. 

More importantly than the result of the game was that Koivu came away from the exhibition campaign convinced of one thing: he's ready for the games to count.

Video: Locker room postgame vs Winnipeg

"I think kind of probably pretty normal last preseason game I would think," Koivu said. "I think both teams, yeah I don't think that's the kind of hockey you want to play going into the season. But ... now we're done. For the most part, we're all healthy going into the season so I think in the big picture it's been a good camp."

From a statistical standpoint, scoring a goal is always nice. But in the preseason, the number Boudreau was watching the most was time on ice.

Sunday, Koivu skated 16 minutes, 7 seconds, the third time this preseason he's been north of the 16-minute mark. That was Boudreau's goal all along.

Tweet from @mnwild: 📹 #MNWild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau on tonight's preseason finale vs. Winnipeg. pic.twitter.com/8l2j33K6RY

"To play him 16 minutes in all three games ... I wanted to see how his leg withstood it," Boudreau said. "And he did a good job."

In addition to the goal, Koivu also went 14-5 in the face-off circle, a crucial area where the Wild missed him last season. 

With its captain healthy, eager for the start of the season and appearing in midseason form ... considering the doubt in Boudreau's mind at the start of the exhibition season, it's not likely the preseason could have gone much better.

For Koivu, the preseason was a big success. Now, he just wants them to count.

"The plan was to get three games and I got that," Koivu said. "I think I'm pretty satisfied personally with the camp and feeling a lot better than I did before camp."


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