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Harding will return tonight against the Islanders

Dec 29, 2013, 3:38 PM EDT

Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding (37) cools down with a splash of water during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) AP

The Minnesota Wild have struggled while Josh Harding needed to spend some time on the sidelines as he adjusted to his new treatment protocol for multiple sclerosis.

The team suffered four straight losses and netminder Niklas Backstrom conceded 17 goals over that span. The Wild need to turn things around and fortunately they have Harding back to help them do just that.

He’ll start in tonight’s match against the New York Islanders, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.

The 29-year-old has spent most of his career serving as a backup, but he’s come out of nowhere to arguably be the league’s top goaltender this season. Among qualified players, he leads the pack with a 1.51 GAA and .939 save percentage in 27 contests.

He won the Masterton Trophy last season for his determination to continue his career after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. With a strong second half to the 2013-14 campaign, he could follow that up with the Vezina Trophy.

  1. homegrowntalentmn - Dec 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Backstrom is terrible! no way he makes Finlands team. Glad to have Harding back

  2. credible316 - Dec 29, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Thank god, Backsrom couldn’t stop a beach ball.

  3. dumptrucked - Dec 29, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    I don’t understand why yeo wouldn’t give Gustafson a start, backstrom was embarrassing.

  4. jacketsfan7 - Dec 29, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    He was awful , can’t believe at one point you guys relied on him! Harding is truly inspirational , I think he’ll win the vezina

  5. rebekah319 - Dec 29, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Gustafson is 21 years old has no pro experience and for all the reports for every which way he struggles in practices and in Iowa. The kid is not ready at all! STOP WITH BACKSTROM IS TERRIBLE! Why do I say that? Because he gets no help from his defensemen when he plays and the team DOES NOT play well in front of him!!!! I get that he has had his fair share of struggles but honestly if you are going to blame the goalie also blame the players who are playing in front of him. It goes both ways so just stating that is not fair!!!!!! Wild fans need to see the “WHOLE PICTURE OF WHY HIS NUMBERS HAVE BEEN WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN! ITS NOT JUST HIM!!!!

    • 19to77 - Dec 29, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      All the capslock abuse and exclamation points in the world don’t excuse the gulf between Harding’s .939 save percentage and Backstrom’s .893 with the same defense in front of them. If they’re hanging Backstrom out to dry, how are they giving Harding enough support for him to be a Vezina candidate? Face it, Backstrom’s over the hill. He’s not an NHL-calibre goalie anymore.

    • mp1131211 - Dec 30, 2013 at 12:43 AM

      For someone complaining about how predictable Wild fans’ responses are, you sure say the same thing over and over about Backstrom.

      He’s not getting the best support in the world. But he’s not putting up the best show either.

      • cmmorgan32 - Dec 30, 2013 at 2:24 AM

        That’s true, but at least from what I’ve seen, there have been a fair ammount of comments on this site basically claiming that Backstrom is THE problem in Minnesota when that clearly isn’t the case. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the goalie (regardless of who it is) can only do so much when the guys in front of him aren’t delivering. That is obviously the case in Minnesota (tonight’s game being a perfect example).

        In the case of this season, Backstrom has arguably been a victim of circumstance. The bulk of his playing time has been on the road (we all know about Minnesota on the road). If you look at the games he’s played in prior to the latest road trip, they have been low-scoring games.

        That being said, things need to change and decisions need to be made. The biggest decision being when do Yeo and possibly Fletcher get fired.

  6. northstarnic - Dec 29, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    Gives the slumping wild a chance. More than can be said when Backstroke is in there.

  7. kgod30 - Dec 29, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Tough to explain – but the Wild have been horrible in front of Backy. Plus he has not been controlling his rebounds. Regardless, the Wild let the opponents mug Backstrom and that has to stop. Blame Backy if you want – but that means you don’t actually watch what is going on.

  8. vstar1us - Dec 29, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    Good

  9. cmmorgan32 - Dec 29, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    When are some of you going to realize that Backstrom IS NOT the root of Minnesota’s problems. Yes, his play this season leaves a lot to be desired. However, there’s only so much any goalie can do if the players in front of him don’t SCORE GOALS.

    Perhaps the main question some of you should be asking is “why is the team horrible on the road?” 4 of Harding’s 5 losses have been on the road. 7 of Backstrom’s 9 losses have been on the road. In fact, the bulk of Backstrom’s playing time has happened on the road (10/16 games). With the way Minnesota has played on the road, they could have one of the greatest goalies to ever play hockey (in their prime) in net and the end result will still be the same until things finally change up front.

  10. hardkor07mn - Dec 29, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    You can’t blame the D in front of him. Harding plays with the same D. I’m not sure what’s going on with him, but he’s been kicking out way to many rebounds. IMO he just looks sluggish, not the backstrom we are used to seeing. I also think the wild made a huge mistake when they signed him last year. There were an number of other goalies on the market that are better than him.

    • cmmorgan32 - Dec 29, 2013 at 11:06 PM

      By that logic, you can’t blame anyone because Harding and Backstrom play with the same guys in front of them (the rest of the team).

      I do agree with you on re-signing Backstrom in the off-season. However, the problem becomes 1) who do/can you get that keeps you cap compliant? and 2) Does that person have the ability to take on a heavier workload if/when Harding needs time off for MS reasons?

      Minnesota didn’t exactly have much cap room to work with. If they could’ve gotten a better goalie for something around what Backstrom was signed for, more power to them. However, Backstrom was probably their best/only option outside of Mike Smith and maybe one or two others when you take into account cap space constraints and whether or not that signee could handle a heavier workload (granted Harding missing 3 months last year could just be a one time thing/worst case scenario). If you pursue a goalie via a trade, who do you try to get and who (or what) are you going to have to give up for the trade to happen? Personally, I think that unless he was a deal-breaker in the trade, Minnesota should not have traded Matt Hackett to Buffalo.

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