Wild captain Koivu crucial in matchup with rival Blackhawks

As the first full-time captain in Minnesota Wild history, forward Mikko Koivu has had a large influence in the play of the team since his rookie year in 2005-06.

Thats especially been the case against the Chicago Blackhawks, who the Wild face Thursday night in pursuit of Minnesotas first win of the young season.

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Koivu has played 47 games against Chicago in his 13-year career, tallying five goals and 28 assists. Of those 47 games, the Wild have won 27, with 20 of Koivus 28 assists and four of five goals against the Blackhawks coming in victories.

Hes recorded at least one point in 22 matchups with Chicago. Minnesota is 14-7-1 against the Blackhawks when Koivu is on the scoresheet and 13-10-2 when hes held without a point.

Keep that in mind for Thursdays matchup. The Wild might need all the offense they can get.

Chicago is off to a blistering start with a 3-0-1 record and tops the Western Conference with 21 goals. Chicago launched its season with a 10-1 win over the defending champs Pittsburgh Penguins (think they miss Matt Cullen?), five goals against the Blue Jackets, and three apiece in an overtime loss to the up-and-coming Toronto Maple Leafs and in a win over the Montreal Canadiens.

The quick start doesnt come as too much of a surprise for the high-powered Blackhawks, who were stunningly swept by the Nashville Predators in the first round last season -- making the Wilds 2017 postseason disappointment easier to swallow.

Minnesota might not be desperate for a win in Chicago at this point of the year, but a loss would set them back further in the crowded Western Conference. The Wild have only had one other 0-3 start in franchise history -- in 2013-14 -- which finished with a 43-27-12 record.

NOTABLE

-- Ryan Suter is back at it again, logging significant minutes for the Wild. Through the first two games, Suter is averaging 26:53 time on ice, ranking just behind St. Louis Blues Alex Pietrangelo (27:03). Suter ranked third in the league last season with a 26:55 TOI average.

-- The Wild won eight straight games against the Blackhawks from 2015-17, but theyve dropped the last three to Chicago. In those three losses, Minnesota is averaging 38 shots per game, compared to Chicagos 31.

-- Chicago has led 84.5 percent of the time in 2017-18, which leads the NHL.

Statistics courtesy STATS, hockey-reference.com