Noon Number for 12-17-2013: 21:40

Mikael Granlund's injury have opened up Mikko Koivu to playing a much greater workload. - Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Mikko's minutes are at a career high thus far this season.

Hello, Wilderness!

Dan is studying, because he hasn't yet learned that college is a waste of time, so I'm back at my old stomping grounds for today and Thursday. But don't worry, capable though Dan's hands may be, mine are a reasonable approximation.

Worst case scenario, you'll deal with it for two days.

I touched on this in Friday's Wilderness Walk, but the minutes Mikko Koivu is playing are of concern to me. Koivu has always logged big minutes throughout the course of his career, he's a horse like that. But when he wore down in the later part of the regular season, and the playoffs against the Blackhawks, fatigue was the culprit, begging the question of whether he would play fewer minutes. It seemed like that's what Mike Yeo and the Wild were doing, taking advantage of improved lineup depth.

However, when Mikael Granlund went down for good at the beginning of the Phoenix game on November 27th, that went out the window. A cursory look at his minutes show that.

Pre 11-27 (Regulation): 18 games, 20:20

Pre 11-27 (OT/SO): 7 games, 23:15

Post 11-27 (Regulation): 8 games, 23:17

Post 11-27 (OT/SO): 2 games, 21.35

This increase of minutes (over 3 per regulation game), has helped Koivu elevate his minutes per game to 21:40, which would be the highest of his career so far. It may be small-sample coincidence, but since he assumed an even larger role to fill Granlund's skates, he's cooled off from his hot streak, notching only 4 points.

The good news in this is that Granlund has returned to practice, and will hopefully return to that second-line center slot shortly, and reduce the workload on Koivu. Because as we've all seen in the last three years, as Mikko goes, the Wild follow. The Wild can't afford to run Koivu into the ground, and a healthy Granlund makes that more likely to happen.

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