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Wild to honor Mikko Koivu in opener of homestand vs. Predators

Sportsnaut
Mar 11, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kevin Fiala (22) falls to the ice after colliding with an official during the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kevin Fiala (22) falls to the ice after colliding with an official during the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild know where they’ll be for the rest of the month.

At home.

The Wild are scheduled to open a franchise-record, nine-game homestand Sunday against the Nashville Predators.

It should be an emotional night at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild will retire the jersey number of former captain Mikko Koivu, the first player so honored by the team.

“No one worked harder than Mikko during his time with the Minnesota Wild,” general manager Bill Guerin said. “He was a fiery competitor and a fantastic captain both on and off the ice. Mikko is the franchise leader in so many categories, but the impact he made in our community and the connections he made with Wild fans will live on forever.”

The Wild, who are two points ahead of Nashville for third place in the Central Division, have more games on this homestand than they have on the road (eight) the remainder of the regular season.

Minnesota is 17-6-1 at home this season.

“We want to establish our building, we want to make it a hard place to come play and that’s the style we’ve gotta play so that we get most of those points,” Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen said. “They’re crucial this time of the year obviously, everyone is pushing for the playoffs, it’s going to get tighter and tighter, so it’s huge.”

The Wild saw their modest two-game winning streak snapped with a 3-2 shootout loss Friday at Columbus. Minnesota allowed the tying goal with 32 seconds remaining in regulation.

“I thought we played a good game and sometimes you lose those games. That’s the NHL,” said Wild forward Mats Zuccarello, who had a goal and an assist. “Some games we won that the other team felt they should win, so that evens out. But obviously it’s tougher to accept the loss when you feel like you should have won and played good.”

The Predators said they felt the same way after Saturday’s 7-4 loss to visiting St. Louis snapped their three-game winning streak. The Predators rallied from an early three-goal deficit only to see the Blues take a 5-4 lead with 2:38 remaining.

“I thought we played a really good game,” said Predators forward Matt Duchene, who had two goals and an assist. “We showed a lot of resiliency. They’re a good team. They’re clicking well. But that one stings because we played such a good game, had so many good looks. We probably felt like we should have won that game.”

Duchene has scored twice in four of the past five games. His 31 goals this season tie a career high, set during the 2018-19 season.

“He’s a highly talented player,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “When you combine high talent with high work ethic, high compete and him playing smart, he allows himself to get into scoring situations. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, but he’s earned it with the way he’s playing.”

Ryan Johansen (one goal, two assists) also had a three-point performance on Saturday for Nashville.

–Field Level Media