After not having played a game since December 31st, the team’s first-half MVP, Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis), has joined the Minnesota Wild for practice in Chicago.
Harding was the third goalie on the ice for the Wild today, skating with starter Ilya Bryzgalov and recent call-up John Curry. This is a major development, though there’s no timetable for his return. If Harding is to make a return this season, it will need to involve a short conditioning stint with Iowa. The Baby Wild have just nine regular season games remaining with an early tee time in the not too distant future. That said, every bit of practice time Harding can get is vitally important at this point. Still, there’s no guarantee he’ll play again this season.
“The reality is he’s always going to be day-to-day basically,” said Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo in reference to Harding and his struggles with MS.
Harding still leads all Wild goaltenders this season with an 18-7-3 record, a 1.65 goals against average (which is still best in the league), a .933 save percentage and three shutouts in 29 games. Rookie Darcy Kuemper has shouldered the bulk of the workload in net in the 2002 second round pick’s absence, notching a 12-8-4 record, a 2.43 goals against average, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 26 games prior to Monday morning’s sudden injury in practice.
In the meantime, Bryzgalov is now the man in net, and he’s given the entire Wild organization reason to be confident in his play with a 4-0-2 record, a 2.16 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and a shutout in seven games since being acquired for an extra 2014 fourth round pick the day prior to the trade deadline. That’s a mouthful.
When you look at Minnesota’s goalies (Harding, Bryzgalov, Kuemper and former franchise No. 1 Niklas Backstrom) it’s amazing to see such talent in one organization–it’s unfortunate none of them can be healthy at the same time.
It’s just another day in the life of a Minnesota professional sports franchise.
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