Habs' Koivu faces younger brother
Sibling rivalry will be taken to a new level Thursday night when Saku and Mikko Koivu face off against each another in Minnesota.
The game will mark the first time in NHL history that two brothers will clash as captains — Saku is the long-time captain of the Canadiens, while Mikko was given the "C" by the Minnesota Wild before this season.
Both Finnish forwards are off to solid starts to the current NHL campaign.
Mikko, 25, is the Wild's leading scorer with 13 points, including a league-high 12 assists, while older brother Saku, 33, has 10 points (four goals, six assists) and is tied for the team lead in scoring with Andrei Markov (10 assists).
Saku has two assists in the two previous meetings between the brothers while Mikko is scoreless in those contests, but the younger Koivu is off to the best start of his four-year NHL career.
"He's on fire right now. He's playing fantastic, so it'll be interesting to see [the battle between the brothers]," said Hockey Night in Canada analyst P.J. Stock.
Saku downplayed the one-on-one showdown with his brother.
"We only play each other once a year, so that makes it special," the Habs captain told the Montreal Gazette. "We've only met twice before. It's going to be an exciting night, but when you've been around for a while, it's just one of the (82) games."
The two are close but Mikko used to detest talking about Saku because he didn't want to be known simply as Saku's younger brother. Things have changed, and Mikko told the Gazette he considers Saku a role model.
"I've been on teams with Team Finland he captained, and he does it very good," Mikko said. "He's a guy I look up to a lot, not (only as) my brother, but as a player and as a person, how he handles things on and off the ice. I think he's probably the biggest role model for me in life."
The Canadiens, who sport a 6-1-1 record, bounced back from their first loss in regulation with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
It was Montreal's first victory over Carolina at home since 2004 after it lost nine straight to the Hurricanes at the Bell Centre.
Despite the win, the Canadiens lacked pace and urgency, and struggled against the Hurricanes.
"If they're going to be the team they want to be this year, if they're going to be that dominant team, they have to do better against teams like this," opined Stock. "All of Carolina's top players were hurt, and the Canadiens didn't take advantage of that."
Montreal plays the second contest of a four-game road trip against the New York Islanders on Saturday.