ST. PAUL, Minn. — Niklas Backstrom waited five years to get back to the playoffs with the Minnesota Wild.
Now he’s just trying to get back on the ice while his team is still playing.
The Wild have returned home facing a 2-0 playoff series deficit to the Chicago Blackhawks, and Backstrom has missed the past two games after suffering a lower-body injury in pregame warm-ups prior to Game 1. Backstrom was on the ice for the team’s morning skate before Game 2 but wasn’t in the lineup Friday night, and he was back on the ice Saturday a day ahead of Sunday’s Game 3.
But Backstrom’s status for what seems like a must-win game is unknown.
“It’s getting better,” he said Saturday. “It’s getting there. It’s going to take time, but it’s something you work on every day. Every morning you wake up, you hope it’s better.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo said he wouldn’t reveal his starting goaltender for Game 3 until “sometime before the game tomorrow.”
“He’s looked really good every day,” Yeo said of Backstrom.
Yeo also didn’t have any updates on forward Jason Pominville, who’s missed both games, or defenseman Clayton Stoner, who missed Friday’s game. Pominville and Stoner both missed Saturday’s practice.
Backstrom didn’t offer much of an optimistic outlook for his return.
“It’s going to be there sooner or later,” Backstrom said. “Every day you try to make some progress, and we see where we are tomorrow morning.”
Josh Harding has started the past two games for Minnesota, and rookie Darcy Kuemper served as Harding’s backup during Friday night’s 5-2 loss. Harding made 35 saves in Game 1 as Minnesota lost 2-1 in overtime. He had 43 saves on Friday.
“Last night, we were not good in front of (Harding),” Yeo said. “We gave up chance after chance, and he was standing tall for us. And the goals that they scored, he really had no chance to save those. We kind of left him out to dry last night, but I thought he played fantastic. Through two games, he’s been very good for us.”