Ballard undergoes sports hernia surgery; Backstrom, Harding recovering

Defenseman Keith Ballard was the only Minnesota Wild player to go through surgery after the season.

Jerry Lai/Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL, Minn. — When the Minnesota Wild’s season ended in the second round, several players were suffering from the bumps and bruises that go along with a long season and extended playoff run.

Charlie Coyle had played through two separated shoulders, among them. Yet, Minnesota came out on the fortunate end when it comes to the annual ritual of post-season cleanup surgeries.

Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said defenseman Keith Ballard was the only player to go through surgery after the season when he had sports hernia surgery.

"He’s doing well," Fletcher said of Ballard. "He was injured in March and kind of battled through and remarkably came back and played real well for us in the playoffs. You got to give Keith a lot of credit . . .

"We were fortunate on the surgery front, we didn’t have a lot. We had a lot of guys banged up and muscle pulls and shoulder separations and things like that that didn’t require surgery and much like probably every team this time of year, so we were fortunate."

Even Erik Haula, who suffered a broken jaw while playing for Finland in the World Championships last month, didn’t require surgery.

"Lots of milkshakes," Fletcher joked Friday in a press conference to announce coach Mike Yeo’s three-year extension. "No, Erik’s doing well. Kid has amazing energy, not much seems to get him down. But he’s in the Twin Cities now and I think by late June he should be fine and should be able to go 100 percent."

Meanwhile, goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding are progressing well in their recoveries.

Backstrom’s season ended early after undergoing surgery in March to repair core muscles. Backstrom, who had sports hernia surgery last offseason, played in 21 games with a 5-11-2 record, 3.02 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.

"His rehab has gone very well," Fletcher said of Backstrom. "He’s feeling better now than he did at any point last season, including training camp. We’re still two or three months away for him from training camp. We expect he’ll be able to go full out, full pads by either late July or early August and that will leave him plenty of time to get ready for training camp. In terms of how he feels, his rehab from surgery, he’s in a very good spot right now."

Harding was one of the best goaltenders in the league through the first three months last season when he was unexpectedly forced to play more because of an injury to Backstrom. Harding had a 1.65 goals-against average and .933 save percentage while tallying an 18-7-3 record.

But Harding, in dealing with multiple sclerosis, didn’t play again after Dec. 31. He returned to practice at one point, but later had to be shut down.

Fletcher said he’s received good reports of Harding’s progress.

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"I think his battles are well-chronicled and well-known," Fletcher said. "I think he’s feeling well at this point in time. The goal for him, much like last summer, is to build up and get to a point where he’s able to come into training camp and play well. There’s been nothing that I’ve heard of to lead me to not believe that to be the case."

Of course, the status of Backstrom and Harding will be a key question in the offseason. The Wild had five goaltenders win a game last season and four serve No. 1 goaltenders for a stretch, including rookie Darcy Kuemper and trade-acquisition Ilya Bryzgalov.

Fletcher will sort through the goaltending situation, which is dependent on Backstrom and Harding’s recoveries.

"Certainly, Nik and Josh if they’re healthy are part of the plan," Fletcher said. "Darcy could still go to Iowa . . . He also showed at times he could be a pretty good No. 1 goaltender, so it’s going to come down to health and performance and if we have to carry three goalies we’ll carry three goalies . . . We’re going to need the depth."

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