November 9, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding (37) looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Center. The Minnesota Wild defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild Keep Winning as Search for a Possible Backup Goalie Begins

After a dominating two goal first period, Minnesota Wild fans welcomed back the second period snooze, though it may not have been so joyfully received.

The Cats would come back with a pair of goals in the third to knot things up, including a beautiful drop pass from former Gophers center Nick Bjugstad, who crashed towards the net taking two defenders with him and dropped the puck back to last year’s Rookie of the Year, Jonathan Huberdeau, for the tying goal. Mikko Koivu wouldn’t be denied, however, setting up ChAHlie Coyle (makes me want a bowl of chowda) for the youngster’s second goal of the year and fourth point in five games since his return from an early season knee sprain that caused him to miss 12 games. Good teams find a way to win, and that’s what Minnesota’s been able to do, even if some of their wins haven’t been the prettiest.

Minnesota may be in the market for a goaltender. With the Wild at the start of a stretch that will see them play 17 games in 30 days, there’s no way Josh Harding can play them all. Niklas Backstrom is concussed, and there’s really no reliable time table for concussions as each situation is different from the next. For the short term, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has no problem giving Darcy Kuemper or Johan Gustafsson the occasional start with the big club. But both players would be better suited to spend the entire season developing in Des Moines rather than being in St. Paul for the rest of the year.

With that said, the three names said to be in the running are Rick DiPietro (not happening), Johan Hedberg and former Hart winner and Wild goalie Jose Theodore.

Of the three, I would think DiPietro would be the least likely to be contacted, and here’s why. The former No. 1 overall pick really has been a victim of injuries or, at least, that’s how it started out. Then, I think it became a confidence issue, and it’s become so much so, that he’s even become a victim of AHL snipers, going 0-3 with an embarrassing 5.57 goals against average in four games with the Carolina Hurricanes’ minor league affiliate.

Then there’s this.

No, Fletcher would lose all credibility if he signed DiPietro.

Johan Hedberg is likely out of the running, too. After being released from a pro tryout agreement with the New York Rangers this fall, Hedberg has been content to do some scouting for the New Jersey Devils and spend some quality time with the family. He’s all but retired at this point.

Jose Theodore, on the other hand, wants to play, and to play for the Minnesota Wild in particular. When Backstrom originally went down early in the season, it was Theodore that contacted the Wild brass about possibly playing for his old team. Backs wasn’t out too long, and there was no need for an additional goalie in the system, but that was different. This injury is an entirely different animal. Theodore knows this and has been working out four days a week and skating every day in preparation for just such a time as this.

Minnesota doesn’t need a new starting goaltender–I think it’s become plain that Josh Harding has all but ascended to the throne as the new No. 1 in St. Paul. Minnesota needs a reliable backup, plain and simple. A guy that can come in and spot Harding when need be and just enjoy being along for the ride. Theodore’s record may be a little too glorious for a typical backup, but he’s not an unquestionable No. 1 goalie anymore at this point in his career. He’ll also need to be willing to sign a two-way deal (which may develop into a bad situation for both Kuemper and Gustafsson later on) in case Backstrom does return to the lineup later in the season, which he very likely will.

If he is signed, this will be the second time Minnesota has signed Theodore on an emergency basis after Josh Harding went down with a season-ending injury in the 2010-11 preseason. Like then, when Anton Khudobin wasn’t ready for fulltime backup duties, neither are Kuemper or Gustafsson today. Plus, Fletcher is a big fan of the goalie, as well. That’s to be expected after Theodore’s very successful season as Backstrom’s backup.

In 32 games with the Wild, he would notch a 15-11-3 record, a 2.71 goals against average, a .916 save percentage and a shutout. In 648 career NHL games, Theodore has put together a 286-254-30-39 record to go with a 2.68 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and 33 shutouts. Not too shabby.

That’s about it for today. It should be noted that the team is also apparently looking at some options overseas according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo. We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.

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Tags: Darcy Kuemper Johan Gustafsson Johan Hedberg Jose Theodore Josh Harding Niklas Backstrom Rick DiPietro

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