Found February 06, 2014 on
As the sprint prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi begins to come to a grinding halt, the Minnesota Wild find themselves in an all too familiar position. Despite going on a tear heading into the break, they have struggled to make significant ground on the leaders on the Western Conference. The equally consistent play of Chicago, St. Louis and Colorado has left the Wild as the 7th seed if the playoffs were to start today.
It is difficult to predict exactly what the Olympic break will bring for the franchise. 5 Wild players are headed to Sochi to endure a grueling two weeks of hockey against the best competition in the world. Upon return, they will immediately be thrust into the home stretch of the NHL regular season and expected to bring intensity every night. This may be difficult for the 5 players because of the emotional battles they will endure in Russia as they compete for their home country’s flag as opposed to a city in the United States. The task for Mike Yeo and company will be to get the player’s minds on the stretch run of the season.
As for the players who are not fortunate enough to compete for their respective countries, they will be taking trips to tropical destinations to relax or returning home to visit family during the mid-season break. It can be a great time to go home in order to nurse the bumps and bruises that may be hampering them. On the other hand, two weeks off from games with fewer tune-up sessions can be difficult to bounce back from when they return to continue the season. Again, it will be the duty of Yeo and the rest of the staff to hit the gas pedal immediately when the games end.
The sudden return to the NHL season is going to cause the standings to fluctuate wildly in late-February and early-March. Expect to see major changes in playoff seeding when the season arrives again. You can expect to have a better grasp on the contenders and pretenders in each conference shortly after the Olympics because certain teams are going to hit another gear and others will be stuck in Olympic break mode.
Expect Mikko Koivu to return from the Olympics at the top of his game (Photo credit: Getty Images)
The one aspect that is sure to help the Minnesota Wild during the stoppage is that they will have time to recover from some of the nagging injuries that have plagued them recently. Marco Scandella suffered a sprained MCL on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and if there was ever a “good time” for that injury to happen, it’s now. He’ll have nearly 20 days to recover from what is expected to be a 2-3 week injury. It can’t be stressed enough how important the presence 7 healthy and experience defensemen will be prior to the playoffs. Having the ability to rotate and scratch players who are not playing well during that time will be a luxury that other teams may not have.
Mikko Koivu has not ruled out playing in the Olympics, but he is still believed to be finishing his recovery from a broken leg. It’s imperative that he comes back completely healed when the Wild returns to action.
Finally, Niklas Backstrom has dealt with continued soreness in his backup role to Darcy Kuemper and any time that he is afforded the opportunity to get back to 100 percent will be welcomed with open arms.
Olympic hockey is one of the greatest spectacles in sports. Take a game that is already emotional and allow the best players in the world to compete for their countries and you’re certain to see quite the phenomenon. In terms of national importance, think of it as the World Cup for the more frigid countries of the world. And just for the record, my Olympic prediction… Sweden beats Russia in the gold medal game. The host country loses to the team with arguably the most depth.
I’d love to hear your own predictions in the comments section. Enjoy the Olympics everyone!!!
BEST OF MAXIM
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The disappointment was apparent on Mikko Koivu's face.
Koivu, the Minnesota Wild captain and presumptive captain for Team Finland, announced Friday he won't play in the Olympics this month in Sochi, Russia. Koivu, who has missed the past 15 games for Minnesota, decided his surgically-repaired ankle hasn't healed enough to allow him to play in his third...
Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu decided his surgically repaired right ankle has not healed enough to allow him to play for Finland in the Olympics.
Koivu, who had surgery after fracturing his right ankle while blocking a shot on Jan. 4, has been out the past 15 games for Minnesota heading into the Olympic break.
Koivu, a two-time Olympian, was one of the most experienced players...
Mikko Koivu will miss the Winter Olympics, sources say.
The Wild captain, who was expected to captain Finland, will make the announcement during a 1 p.m. news conference at Xcel Energy Center. Koivu underwent surgery on a broken ankle Jan. 6 after being hit by a dump-in off the stick of Washington's Nicklas Backstrom two days before.
The normal course of recovery for this type...
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A young Ryan Suter took one of the most historic hockey artifacts and simply tossed it into his locker.
There, the 1980 Olympic hockey gold medal won by his dad, Bob, would sit for days, sometimes a week. To Ryan, the son of one of the players on the iconic "Miracle on Ice" 1980 USA hockey team, the medal was a neat souvenir. He would bring the medal...
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marco Scandella and the Minnesota Wild received good injury news for a change and a perfect scenario in terms of timing.
Scandella, who is seventh on the team and fourth among defense with an average of 18 minutes, 13 seconds of ice time per game, sprained his right knee in Tuesday's 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Scandella will miss Thursday'...
The Wild’s season is now at an intermission, with the Olympics taking up the next two weeks of February. Minnesota has 5 players that were selected for Olympic rosters, though Mikko Koivu will miss the Games with an injury. The rest of the team gets a healthy couple of weeks off.
This is a good point for evaluation, obviously. The Wild have been beset by key injuries, like Zach...
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter is excited to head to Sochi, Russia this weekend and participate in his first Olympic games.
First, he had to gain some bragging rights over his soon-to-be Swiss teammate and roommate Roman Josi.
Niederreiter, in his first season with the Minnesota Wild, said he was just picking up speed as he streaked down the right side in overtime on Thursday...
The Minnesota Wild return home for the first time in nearly two weeks with Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Captain Mikko Koivu's return is another story.
Koivu has missed 13 games after having ankle surgery as the result of blocking a shot on Jan. 4 against the Washington Capitals. Koivu and the team were hopeful he would return before the break, but he hasn...
The level of competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics will be almost as intense as the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is one reason why several NHL stars battling injuries have decided to skip the trip to Sochi.
When the league’s players come back from Russia, the playoff races are going to intensify and teams will need their best players at full strength.
Let’s take a look at the...
With five players heading to the Olympics and scores of others heading to the Caribbean, Mexico and other fun places in the sun, Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged his players not to look past the Nashville Predators.
After the game — not before, Yeo said, Wild players could turn their brains off, forget about hockey and think about the beach.
It wasn’t easy, but against a scrappy...
Cue the Olympic Anthem. Get ready for taped-delay broadcasts people, make sure you adjust your Twitter accounts so you don't spoil the results early. On morning shows, they'll post the various medals the United States has won and viewers and fans of the Olympics like myself have to cover our ears and close our eyes to avoid having the suspense ruined. It doesn't...
So much has been made the past month about the injuries to Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Josh Harding, it was all but forgotten how important Jared Spurgeon is to the Wild.
The diminutive defenseman averages the third-most ice time on the team and even in the game in which he broke a foot Jan. 2 against Buffalo, Spurgeon gutted through a 27-minute effort with a plus-3.
Nino Niederreiter snagged the puck off the boards and rushed toward the net, deftly setting up a wrist shot with a slick deke to each side.
The puck whizzed past Nashville goalie Carter Hutton's stick to give Minnesota an overtime victory but, before it got there, it had to elude Niederreiter's good friend.
Niederreiter's goal with 2:44 left in the extra period lifted...
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Nino Niederreiter's goal with 2:44 left in overtime lifted Minnesota to a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, the fifth straight home win for the Wild.
Jonas Brodin and Zach Parise scored early to offset two goals for the Predators by Craig Smith, who raised his team-leading total to 18. Carter Hutton made 33 saves and helped thwart...
Minnesota Wild (30-21-7) 67pts 4th in the Central
2.34 Goals For (25th)
2.43 Goals Against (10th)
18.2% Power Play (16th)
80.4% Penalty Kill (20th)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #29 Jason Pominville ~ 22G 17A = 39pts
2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 18G 17A = 35pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 6G 27A = 33pts
4. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 5G 23A = 28pts
5. #22 Nino Niederreiter...