The captain isn’t sweating his left leg injury anymore. He will not seek vengeance against contrite Flames defenseman Mark Giordano. And he would not touch with a 10-foot hockey stick the lineup intrigue his imminent return has generated.
“Just excited to be on the ice; frustrated at the same time,” he said. “But that will get easier as you get closer to the game. Just got to make sure you’re ready for the battle.”
That battle will be for two points — and two points only — Saturday afternoon, Dec. 15, against Pacific Division-leading Calgary at Xcel Energy Center. It remains unclear whether Koivu will suit up. Coach Bruce Boudreau said he would be a game-time decision ahead of the 12:38 p.m. faceoff.
In a bygone era, bad blood easily could spill over from Flames’ 2-0 victory Dec. 6 at Scotiabank Saddledome. Giordano’s knee-to-knee hit late in the third period ended Koivu’s night and garnered a two-game suspension by the NHL.
Lest anyone forget the crushing body check Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba subsequently used to level Flames center Mikael Backlund. That sparked Ryan Lomberg to fly off the bench and jump Dumba in premeditated zeal.
Koivu echoed Boudreau’s sentiment, revealing that Giordano texted an apology to him for the hit.
“It was a classy move by him,” Koivu said. “Obviously (I’ve) known him playing against him. I don’t think he meant to do that. Things happen quick trying to win every battle, every game. That’s part of the game. He texted me, apologized, move on.
“Make sure you play the game the right way and not to let emotion get the best (of you). You just need to focus on the game and make sure you win the hockey game. Things happen. We’re ready for everything.”
Meanwhile, Boudreau said he has not decided whether to reunite Koivu with Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle on the Wild’s original No. 1 line. Parise, Coyle and Nino Niederreiter are scorching since being put together late in last Friday’s 7-2 loss at Edmonton, accounting for seven goals and seven assists in two-plus games since Koivu has been sidelined.
With center Eric Staal entrenched on the second line, Koivu might be ticketed for third-line duty between greenhorns Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin or Joel Eriksson Ek. The politics of demoting the captain and 14-year veteran could be thorny.
“We haven’t gotten to any part of that conversation yet,” Boudreau said. “You figure it out and do what’s best for the team in the end.”
Koivu was diplomatic when asked about returning in a third-line role.
“You’ve known me long enough,” he told reporters. “It’s the coach’s job to put the lineup out there and for players to respond and play. That’s a question you’ve got to ask Bruce.”
Koivu, who had only missed four games since 2014-15, acknowledged he dodged a more serious injury in the collision along the right-wing boards.
“When you see plays like that, usually bad things happen,” he said. “But it’s getting closer to getting back to the game. That’s in the past now. Just looking forward to getting better, getting stronger and hopefully get closer.”