Feb 28, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Minnesota Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) before the start of the first period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild Rookie Goalie Darcy Kuemper Expected to Backup Bryzgalov

The Minnesota Wild take on the mighty Colorado Avalanche tonight in Game Two of their Western Conference quarterfinal series in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Scott will have your full game preview up shortly, if it isn’t up already by the time this article is published, but there is some good news to report. According to Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo, Wild rookie netminder Darcy Kuemper is set to backup starter Ilya Bryzgalov tonight after being out of the lineup with an injury since March 31st.

Most likely the franchise goaltender of the future, Kuemper broke onto the NHL scene this year as one of the league’s brightest future stars at the position with a 12-8-4 record, a 2.43 goals against average, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 26 games. That was good–because Minnesota had no other option with top two goalies Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom battling injury and illness. Even when Backstrom was in the lineup, his play was so inconsistent. So, when Kuemper seamlessly took on the mantle of No. 1 netminder, the Wild brass breathed a huge sigh of relief.

However, Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher wasn’t content to just simply sit tight and “see where this goes”. The day prior to the league’s trade deadline, Fletcher made a simple, tiny little deal with the Edmonton Oilers that saw an extra 2014 fourth round pick head north to Alberta in exchange for an oft-misunderstood former NHL franchise No. 1 goalie named Ilya Bryzgalov. That move alone saved the Wild’s season. In 12 games with Minnesota, Bryzgalov posted a 7-1-3 record, a 2.12 goals against average, a .911 save percentage and three shutouts in nearly single-handedly lifting the Wild into its second straight year of postseason action.

Bryz was in net Thursday night in Minnesota’s 5-4 overtime loss in Game One, stopping 26 of 31 shots. It’s concerning, but third period turnovers by third (now fourth) line center Kyle Brodziak and top pairing defenseman Jared Spurgeon certainly didn’t help, either. It’s a new day–a new chance to come home for Game Three with a win in the Wild’s pocket. While head coach Mike Yeo would rather not be forced to use Kuemper tonight, it’s nice to know the rookie will be there healthy and chomping at the bit to get in and show the league what he’s capable of once more.

The puck is set to drop at 8:30 PM Central Time on Fox Sports North and NBC Sports Network. We’ll see you afterwards.

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Tags: 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Darcy Kuemper

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