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Yeo to split Wild’s first three preseason games among three goalies

Sep 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom

After a campaign where the Minnesota Wild had to compete for long stretches of time without their top two goaltenders, the team might have three viable starting options going into training camp. That’s created a good problem for Wild coach Mike Yeo to have.

The first step will be for Yeo to determine who will serve as the opening game starter between Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, and Darcy Kuemper. He’ll have to start leaning towards one of them by the middle of the preseason.

“The easy thing to say is just give them two games each (out of Minnesota’s six exhibition contests), but whoever’s playing game one, we have to make sure (he’s) ready to go too,” Yeo said at the Minnesota State Fair, per the Star Tribune. He later added, “I think everyone in those first three games has to get basically equal playing time (between Backstrom, Harding, and Kuemper). After that, we’re kind of open right now … but we’re going to have to quickly have to determine who we want to give a greater workload to.”

Regardless of who starts in the Wild’s first game though, the battle for the number one spot is likely to carry on into the regular season. Yeo doesn’t believe in the “win and you’re in” philosophy, but each netminder’s play will obviously dictate their ice time.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that Kuemper is a restricted free agent. There’s still time for the Wild to work something out, but with every passing day, the impasse slowly becomes more ominous.

  1. guitarhunterdude - Sep 1, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    If you’ve got three goaltenders, you haven’t got one. I like what Kuemper showed last year, and Harding should be solid when healthy (though last year was an anomaly), but Backstrom’s injury prone and washed up. At this point, I guess I’ll just put my faith in Bob Mason to coach up Kuemper into a legitimate #1 netminder this season.

  2. mcphillthy - Sep 1, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Aww no bryzgalov on this list? I’ll keep my fingers crossed

    • crazyhorse2609 - Sep 1, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      For someone who claims to hate Bryzgalov, you sure love to bring him up every chance you get. Maybe you should try and get over it.

      • mcphillthy - Sep 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

        Or I have an even better idea….. How about every time he (or Minnesota) is mentioned in an article I will make an appearance from now on?
        I like my idea so much more :-D

  3. greej1938l - Sep 1, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    You’re a real piece of work mcphilly

  4. nicofthenorthstar - Sep 1, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    Ridiculous statement of the day:
    “If you’ve got three goaltenders, you haven’t got one”

    How does that work? Because teams don’t absolutely need to have depth/a minimum of two goalies? Because many successful teams don’t have competition for the starting goaltender position?
    The wild’s scenario is not ideal, but having too many options is not the problem. Their #1 has MS; #2 is young, unproven, and has contract issues; #3 is, as you said, old, worn out and was never deserving of his very generous contract to begin with. Those are their problems.
    However, this is not an NFL QB competition. They need to have multiple options. having three viable starters is not the issue.

  5. clarke16 - Sep 1, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    Just as he should–Yeo obviously isn’t predetermining anything in the nets. Too many variables and too many unknowns at this point. You just let it play out and guide you to what the best decision is…

    I’m guessing Harding will be the #1, Backy the backup and Kuemper to rot in Iowa while that boy gets his mind right… ;)

  6. rebekah319 - Sep 1, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    I am going to just cross my fingers and hope that one or 2 stay healthy this year. Also until Kuemper signs he is out of the mix right now ( currently) Hopefully by the end of preseason things will be a tad bite more clearer

  7. mnwildandcaps8 - Sep 1, 2014 at 10:41 PM

    I really hope Keumps can be our number 1 of the future but he really needs to realize that he is still very unproven! Or I guess maybe it is his agent just trying to get as much money he can. I would love if Harding can stay healthy for a whole season and help us compete for Lord Stanley’s glorious cup. One can hope!

  8. endusersolutions2013 - Sep 1, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    Speaking of RFA’s, any news on Nino?

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