The Minnesota Wild have placed goaltender Josh Harding on injured reserve (IR) through December 26th so he can adjust his treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In a statement by the Wild, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said, “Over the next week, Josh will make a minor adjustment to his treatment protocol. Josh feels great and he looks forward to rejoining our team for our game in Winnipeg on Dec. 27.”
Harding has been fantastic in goal for the Wild this season and the focus has been on his great play and not the MS he was diagnosed with in 2012. His play Tuesday night was a big factor in his teams shootout win against the Vancouver Canucks that snapped Vancouver’s 7 game win streak. He made 29 saves on 31 shots and stopped all three Canucks’ in the Shootout. So far this season Harding is the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy. His overall record is 18-5-3 with an amazing 14-1-0 home ice record. His 1.51 goals against average is the best in the NHL, his .939 save % is second in the league and his three shutouts have him tied for the league lead as well. Harding’s 18 wins are just one behind league leader Marc-Andre Fleury. Pretty heady stats for a guy who took over the #1 goaltender position after an early season injury to Niklas Backstrom and hasn’t relinquished the top job since.
The Wild have recalled goaltender Johan Gustafsson from the Iowa Wild of the AHL. In 9 games this season with Iowa he is 4-4-0 with a 2.95 goals against average, a .898 save % and posted 1 shutout. Gustafsson will be backing up Niklas Backstrom and could make his NHL debut over the next 4 games as Minnesota faces the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday 12/19/13, New York Rangers on Sunday 12/22/13, Philadelphia Flyers on Monday 12/23/13 and The Winnipeg Jets on Friday 12/27/13. We’ll see what Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has up his sleeve as the Wild look for some road victories. Gustafsson is a 6th round, 159th overall, draft pick of the Wild in the 2010 draft. He will wear number 31 with the Minnesota Wild and his sweater should be available soon at the Hockey Lodge in time for Christmas gift giving for those of you who love to wear goalie sweaters.
This is also a big chance for Niklas Backstrom to get some work in. He’s been relegated to backup status with the stellar play of Harding. So far in 11 games during the 2013-14 season Backstrom has a record of 2-5-2, a goals against average of 2.93 and a .900 save %. He will be in net Thursday night as the Wild travel to Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, former wild Pascal Dupuis and the rest of the flightless fowl aka Penguins. I’ll have a full preview of that game tomorrow morning.
It will be interesting to see how the Wild do with their #1 net minder on the shelf for a bit. The pressure will definitely be on Backstrom as the Wild play 4 straight road games until Harding’s anticipated return. Minnesota has struggled on the road this season posting a record of 6-8-3 away from the Xcel Energy Center where they are 14-3-2 and have posted more home wins than any other Western Conference team. Maybe the Wild can give Basckstrom some goal support, something that has been sorely missing this season, over the next few games. Over the last 10 road games the Wild have averaged a pitiful 1.60 goals a game. Here’s to Josh Harding, hope you get the MS treatment adjusted and come back soon. The fans love you and the Wild need you. As always this is Scott Drain chanting, “Har-ding, Har-ding, Har-ding, LET”S GO WILD!!”