After falling 4-2 against the Oklahoma City Barons in his Iowa Wild regular season debut last night, goaltender Darcy Kuemper has been recalled by the Minnesota Wild to backup Josh Harding tonight in Buffalo. Franchise starter Niklas Backstrom is still out with a knee strain.
The Wild (2-1-2) roll into town with this new-fangled philosophy of “puck possession”, something the Sabres (0-5-1) got to experience the losing side of against the dominant Detroit Red Wings when they kicked off their season back on October 2nd. Buffalo, like New Jersey, has yet to win a game this season. Minnesota doesn’t want to be the team to lose to a win-less team. In addition, it’s the first game against the team that drafted him for both Wild winger Jason Pominville and Sabres center Johan Larsson. With those factors in mind, expect an entertaining and action-packed performance from both teams.
With Backstrom out, there is no better time than now for backup Josh Harding to snatch the starter position for his own. In three games this season, Harding has posted a 2-1-0 record with a .944 save percentage and 1.07 goals against average. Granted, the defense in front of him has been exceptional as the Wild have transitioned to a more offensive-minded, yet defensively responsible system. The team has a big week ahead, and Harding is going to have to be a huge part of it. After tonight, depending on Backstrom’s condition, it’s very possible Kuemper receives the nod against the Maple Leafs tomorrow night in Toronto. Harding can take it from there as Minnesota travels to Tampa Bay and Florida for games on Thursday and Saturday night.
For the third straight game, Wild head coach Mike Yeo is sticking with the lineup that got the team wins against Winnipeg and Dallas last week. That means 2008 second rounder Marco Scandella will once again be accompanying Nate Prosser in the press box, and Mathew Dumba has another chance to strengthen his claim to Minnesota’s lineup as a legitimate NHL defenseman. As you read in yesterday’s article, I just don’t see how he doesn’t make the team at this point. Simply put, he’s currently one of Minnesota’s six-best defensemen.
Remember, the game is going to be on NBC Sports Network instead of Fox Sports North tonight. Be sure to check back with us afterwards for Scott’s game recap.
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