ST. PAUL, Minn. — Josh Harding is coming back to the Minnesota Wild and he’s bringing Jake Dowell and Stephane Veilleux with him.
Harding, out since Feb. 7 as he adjusted to change in medication to combat his multiple sclerosis, finished a two-game conditioning stint with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. With Minnesota losing 4-1 to the Calgary Flames on Sunday night and holding precariously to a playoff spot with three games remaining, Harding was recalled from Houston along with Dowell and Veilleux, veteran forwards who the Wild hope can provide energy and consistency for the stretch run.
Rookies Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Darcy Kuemper were reassigned to Houston, which begins the playoffs this week.
Harding, 28, went 1-1-0 in his two games with Houston, stopping 56 of the 61 shots he faced for a 3.00 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. In four games with Minnesota earlier this season, Harding was 1-1-0 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .885 save percentage and one shutout. He gives the Wild a veteran backup for Niklas Backstrom, who has been logging heavy minutes this season for Minnesota, which is trying to end a string of four straight seasons without a playoff appearance.
Dowell, 28, had four goals, five assists, and 34 penalty minutes in 37 games with Houston this season after signing with the Wild as a free agent last summer. Veilleux, 31, had three goals, five assists and 45 penalty minutes for the Aeros. Veilleux returned to Minnesota in a trade last season, playing in 21 games with two assists and 15 penalty minutes. Veilleux is eighth all-time in Wild history in games played and 10th in penalty minutes.
The two should help provide a veteran influence with Minnesota clinging to seventh in the Western Conference, tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets with 51 points, but holding a tiebreaker based on regulation wins.
Granlund had two goals and six assists in 27 games with the Wild. Zucker had four goals and one assits in 19 games with Minnesota, but was without a point in five games since being recalled on April 12. Zucker, 21, was second in scoring for the Aeros this season with 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists) in 55 games and was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team.
Kuemper was 1-2-0 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in six games for the Wild this season as a backup to Backstrom. He was 13-8-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .934 save percentage for Houston.