Injuries to big guns has hampered Wild's production

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

Here's a Wild scenario to ponder: What if the Minnesota NHL team had its three biggest offensive weapons in the lineup all year?

When Marian Gaborik plays for the Wild this season, the team has a winning percentage of .722.

When Owen Nolan plays, the win percentage is .696.

Now that both are back and starting to click, leading scorer Mikko Koivu is out with a knee injury. Koivu missed his third straight game last night when the Wild faced the Calgary Flames.

The three players have only suited up in the same game three times all season, which means the Wild (.473 win percentage overall) are battling to get into the playoffs instead of being comfortably in a post-season position.

"You can't really think about it because injuries are part of the game," said Koivu, who has 62 points in 72 games and could be set to return this week.

"That's the way it goes. Every season, there is going to be some injuries. It's a long season. I don't really think talking that way helps at all.

"A healthy lineup is obviously what we want. You still have to live in the moment, see how the team is for each game and then go from there."

Although Nolan missed 20 games with various injuries, the latest one a broken toe, the former Calgary Flames forward led the Wild with 23 goals heading into last night's visit to the Saddledome.

Gaborik, a pending free agent, has 10 points in nine games, including a four-point night on Long Island Wednesday.

The slick Slovak had hip surgery in early January and rushed back to see if he could get Minnesota into the playoffs. Last night's outing was his fourth game since returning, and he understands how much better the team can be when he is in the lineup.

"For sure, I want to play every game, if I can," Gaborik said. "If we have our whole group together, there's a better chance of us winning games.

"There's some pressure on us, but I consider it a challenge. There's a challenge to every guy on this team to make sure we make the push.

"Every game counts and every shift counts, and we can't take any shortcuts. We have to be ready."

Koivu suffered what looked to be a horrible knee injury a week ago against the Edmonton Oilers. There was talk at the time he could miss the rest of the regular season, but he is recovering better than expected.

With the importance of every game, Koivu took an extra-long morning skate yesterday and could return as soon as tonight against the Oilers in Edmonton.

Gaborik is excited about the prospects Koivu could join him and Nolan for just for the fourth time.

"It would be a big boost, just the fact he's on the trip," Gaborik said about Koivu.

"He's been our best player this season. We need him. He can play in any situation and we rely on him in every situation. Hopefully, he will be back soon."\


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