Minnesota’s worst fears came to fruition on Wednesday when it was announced that center Mikko Koivu will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL and meniscus in his right knee Tuesday night against Buffalo.

There’s no doubt this is a major blow to a team fighting to hold a playoff spot in the West, as the Wild sit just four points clear of ninth place in the standings as play opens Thursday. While Koivu had cooled off in a big way offensively — just eight points in 24 games since Dec. 1 — his defensive prowess has remained the same, and this is where Minnesota will truly miss his presence.

via Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

To make things worse, the Wild begin the post-Koivu era Thursday night against Connor McDavid — second in the league with 78 points — and the Edmonton Oilers.

With Koivu now out of the lineup for the remainder of the season, Bruce Boudreau will have to juggle his lines and hope to find a decent solution to keep the team moving forward instead of taking a nosedive while their captain is out.

Boudreau will need some players to step up while Koivu is out, and here is a small list of those who will have to as they try and fill his shoes.

Charlie Coyle

With Koivu now out, Coyle figures to slide back over to center — where he spent a chunk of time this year before the trade for Victor Rask — where he did enjoy some decent success this season. Zach Parise has particularly enjoyed playing with Coyle at center, and the two will no doubt be reunited to start out the post-Koivu era.

Coyle has been one of the few Wild forwards to put up points since the calendar flipped to 2019, as his 10 points — four goals and six assists — is third among Wild forwards and fourth on the team overall in points since Jan. 1.

Query Results Table
Scoring Goals
Rk Player PTS To Pos G A +/- PIM EV PP SH GW S S% SHFT TOI
1 Jared Spurgeon 13 2019 D 6 7 5 2 6 0 0 0 22 27.3 415 384:06
2 Zach Parise 13 2019 LW 4 9 1 4 4 0 0 3 55 7.3 350 272:57
3 Eric Staal 12 2019 C 4 8 3 12 3 1 0 1 32 12.5 331 268:20
4 Charlie Coyle 10 2019 C 4 6 -1 4 4 0 0 1 26 15.4 340 257:44
5 Ryan Suter 9 2019 D 2 7 6 10 1 1 0 0 25 8.0 420 419:48
6 Jason Zucker 7 2019 LW 4 3 -3 6 1 3 0 1 35 11.4 318 260:45
7 Mikael Granlund 7 2019 C 1 6 -1 10 1 0 0 1 40 2.5 340 283:27
8 Luke Kunin 6 2019 C 1 5 -3 2 1 0 0 0 18 5.6 246 181:07
9 Mikko Koivu 6 2019 C 3 3 0 6 3 0 0 0 34 8.8 336 276:03
10 Jordan Greenway 6 2019 LW 3 3 1 0 3 0 0 0 19 15.8 270 203:25
Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/7/2019.

The other thing for Coyle if he does indeed get the spot at center on the second line behind Staal is he will have to pick up some of Koivu’s slack defensively, which is a lot easier said than done.

Victor Rask

This may be the biggest ‘well duh’, but it has to be said. The Wild will need to get something out of Rask with Koivu out. And that something has to be more than just pointing his stick at open players while they score goals against Minnesota.

Since his arrival from Carolina on Jan. 17, Rask has tallied a pair of points — one goal and one assist — while primarily centering the third line. But like Coyle, Rask will have to help fill in with Koivu’s defensive responsibilities where he has not exactly thrived as of yet since his arrival in Minnesota.

via Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

There hasn’t exactly been inspiring play from Rask in the six games with the Wild, but the organization seems to be giving him all the opportunities to get his game back on track. If those opportunities come in the form of increased minutes during Koivu’s absence, he will have to increase his productivity. Plain and simple.

Joel Eriksson Ek

When Koivu went down the tunnel in Buffalo on Tuesday night, someone in the Wild front office picked up the phone and direct dialed Iowa to make sure Eriksson Ek was a scratch that night and was on the next flight back to Minnesota. The Wild’s 2015 first-round draft pick was officially recalled on Wednesday after the announcement of Koivu’s season-ending injury.

Eriksson Ek had just three points in four games in his return to Iowa during the All-Star break, but he did get the benefit of more ice time to hopefully help boost up his offensive game in Minnesota. Boudreau previously called out his young forward earlier in the year saying he needed to show more offensively in addition to being defensively sound, and that is exactly where the Wild will need Eriksson Ek to come in with Koivu out.

Being a bottom six offensive contributor to start out the post-Koivu era will be key for Eriksson Ek and the Wild. It remains to be seen where exactly where he slots in, but we will get a better idea of his spot in the lineup during Thursday’s morning skate.

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