It’s been described as a carousel, a merry-go-round, a circus, a blight, and a disaster.
However you describe it, the Wild’s goaltending sideshow has been a source of anxiety throughout the year. So, Josh Harding’s return to practice on Friday is both astounding and not surprising.
Harding, who hasn’t played in a game since December 31 because of adjustments to his medication to treat multiple sclerosis, has been skating with the team on and off (more “off” lately) and traveling with the team.
Friday, his equipment arrived in Chicago and he was one of three goalies to take the ice for morning skate.
None of those three goaltenders were Darcy Kuemper, who played in six of the seven games in Round 1 and was expected to be the starter for the rest of the postseason. Kuemper, who suffered a concussion at the end of March in Phoenix, appeared to take Ryan Suter’s knee to the head in Game 7 against Colorado. He continued to play, but was ultimately pulled with eight minutes to go in the game, looking slightly out of it.
After Game 7 the team headed to Chicago and Kuemper returned to the Twin Cities to undergo further evaluation, which is not a good sign for his availability in Round 2. Coach Mike Yeo was his typically verbose self in today’s pre-game update on Kuemper saying, “Upper body injury. Day-to-day. I’m not giving you much there.”
Yeo also addressed Harding’s return to the ice saying that Harding’s return to game action was an “extreme longshot” and that they’re “not getting him on the ice to get him ready to play a game.”
“[We got Harding] on the ice and got him back to being part of the group and helping out a little bit with practice. Obviously this time of year, the goalie playing a lot of games isn’t going to see a lot of time in practice. It’s nice to have three goalies.”
However, when it comes to goaltending for the Wild, the rule is this: if it’s unlikely to happen, it’s going to happen.
The Wild will start Friday’s Round 2 series against Chicago with Ilya Bryzgalov in net and John Curry serving as backup. (Can you imagine being told last summer that this would be the Wild’s goaltending tandem in the postseason?) But if Bryzgalov can’t keep the team in the series, would it be that surprising to see Harding out there? Yes and no.