Found December 26, 2011 on Fox Sports North:
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild have struggled to stay healthy as of late, but they got one of their key players back on the ice Monday night. Wild captain Mikko Koivu was back in action Monday against Colorado after missing four games with a leg injury. While the Wild fell 4-2 to the Avalanche for their seventh loss in a row, they were glad to see their captain back. "It's so nice to have our leader back in the lineup," said Wild forward Matt Cullen. "He was good tonight. I thought he did a good job. An important part of our team." Despite missing Minnesota's last four games, Koivu led the Wild with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) prior to Monday. He added to his team-leading 29th point total with an assist in the second period. Koivu played the puck behind the Avalanche net and found a cutting Cal Clutterbuck. Koivu's centering pass hit Clutterbuck on the tape, and he buried it past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. "Obviously that second goal, things are looking pretty good when he goes in and makes that play," said Wild head coach Mike Yeo. "But so many other areas, it's where he helps you out defensively, faceoffs, penalty killing and then obviously the ability to make a play." A year ago, Koivu was again one of Minnesota's top scorers. He had a team-high 45 assists to go along with 17 goals for 62 points. That tied him with winger Martin Havlat for most points on last year's team. In the four games Koivu missed, Minnesota never scored more than one goal. They were shut out 4-0 by Vancouver and scored just one goal each against the Islanders, Flames and Oilers. With his assist Monday, Koivu now has points in 14 of his last 15 games (seven goals, 12 assists). Koivu finished with 23:32 of ice time Monday - second among all Wild players - and had three shots on goal. "He's such a big part of our team," Cullen said of Koivu. Like his teammates, though, Koivu is frustrated with the Wild's current seven-game losing streak. His return to the lineup Monday wasn't enough to halt the skid. "I know I can do better," Koivu said. "I think we all can do better, and we have to." While the Wild got one healthy player back, they lost another to injury Monday. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon was at the wrong end of a vicious check from behind by Colorado forward Cody McLeod in the first period. Spurgeon slammed into the end boards and remained on the ice for several minutes before he was helped off the ice. McLeod was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Spurgeon did not return to the game after the hit. Yeo did not have an update on Spurgeon after the game, but said he didn't believe Spurgeon ever lost consciousness after the hit. Spurgeon was not available to the media for postgame comments. "I didn't like the hit one bit," Yeo said. "On top of that, to me I felt like it was something that they looked like they were targeting him. They hit him from behind two times before that. I thought that one could have been called, too. That one was dangerous. Twice ... five minutes into the game, he gets hit from behind. That one was ugly." Now, Minnesota must do what it's done far too often lately: replace an injured player in the lineup. Koivu's return provided some offense Monday, but the Wild now lose a solid defenseman in Spurgeon. "He's been so good for us and such a good player," Cullen said of Spurgeon. "He's been so steady, so good. Obviously we hope he's OK." Yet while the losing streak continues, the Wild say they won't use injuries as an excuse. "Every team faces injuries. That's the way it's going to be. You never know who you're going to have in the lineup," Koivu said. "Injuries are a part of the game. You have to battle through. Every single player who's in the lineup has to be ready to play and do the best we can. That's not for us to worry about. We all have to worry about ourselves and prepare the best we can and help this team to win some hockey games again."
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