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Wild’s Koivu back in the lineup, getting back to full strength

“I still feel it, for sure, but it is what it is,” Koivu said. “I’m just trying to get better and stronger each game. Every day it keeps getting better.”

The layoff was Koivu’s longest since missing 27 games in 2012 with a shoulder injury. Koivu was poised to play his second game back from the injury Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said Koivu played stronger as Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Sharks progressed.

“I think he started to (his legs) back at the end,” he said. “His shifts were pretty short in the first period. As time went on, I thought he got better. I thought he was pretty determined. I thought he was the most determined guy.”

PATERYN THE PUGILIST

Defenseman Greg Pateryn needed a few stitches to close a cut above his left eye following his fight with Sharks forward Timo Meier. The confrontation along the end boards went from zero to 60 in about half a second.

“It kind of evolved from a little battle; just going at it a little bit,” he said. “I turned around, one of his gloves was already off. It was one of those moments where you just go.”

Pateryn figures he was cut when he was taken down. It was Pateryn’s 10th career tussle, according to hockeyfights.com, and first since last March.

“I don’t really have any rules of engagement,” he said. “It was just one of those heat-of-the-battle things. It’s not something I look for but I will if an opportunity presents itself where it’s necessary, it’s time to stick up for yourself or someone else. It’s part of the game. You’ve got to answer.”

PENALTY KILLING PROWESS

The Wild’s sporadic scoring problems have papered over a highly successful penalty-killing unit that was the NHL’s second best entering play Thursday.

Minnesota was killing off 85.7 percent of its shorthanded situations. Only Arizona (89 percent) was better. The Coyotes had 11 shorthanded goals; the Wild five.

Boudreau credited forwards Marcus Foligno and Eric Fehr for helping maintain the Wild’s stature. Foligno called the often-thankless task “honorable.”

“When you jump over the boards, guys know that you’re going to kill it off,” Foligno said. “You get kind of nervous when a penalty kill is not clicking and it’s scary when you’re in a game where you’re taking a lot of penalties.

“It’s one of those things that can swing momentum if you have a good penalty kill and score a shorthanded goal or have a big block. That’s what Eric and I like to do. Getting scored on is not an option.”

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