Goalie Josh Harding knew there would be some uncertainty and adjustments in his return to the Minnesota Wild after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis late last summer.
Harding worked diligently to return to the lineup, even posting a shutout during his return in the second game of the season. But Harding said Tuesday he has been feeling “a little off” the past few days, and the team recalled goaltender Darcy Kuemper on Tuesday to allow time for Harding to recover.
“I’m not going to go into too many details about it,” Harding said Tuesday in Vancouver. “I’m a little off. The decision was made to take this one off and just take care of it right now.”
Harding, 28, said he’s been on a new medication for the past couple of weeks.
“Trying to take some new medications and stuff like that, the body obviously reacts a little different for everybody,” Harding said. “There’s no doubt, we’ve been told by the doctors that everything is going to be fine, but this was a possibility and it’s unfortunate this has happened.”
Last summer, Harding went through a round of tests after feeling dizzy and was diagnosed with MS, which attacks the body’s immune system and specifically the lining of the nerves. It can affect balance, vision and cause fatigue. Harding, who had signed a three-year, $5.7 million contract with Minnesota, wanted to keep playing and appreciated the chance he was given by the team’s staff.
Harding has played four games this season and is 1-1-0 with a 2.92 goals against average and .885 save percentage. His last start came on Jan. 30 against the Chicago Blackhawks when he was pulled after giving up two goals on the first four shots he faced. He came on in relief of starter Niklas Backstrom on Feb. 7 during a loss to Vancouver. He said his recent troubles don’t date back to the start against Chicago.
Harding practiced Tuesday, but the team wanted to give him time off to get better.
“There’s a lot of trial and error,” general manager Chuck Fletcher told the team’s website. “Every situation is different and the doctors advised us of this a few weeks ago, that eventually we will get to the right spot where the medication works and his body adapts to it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Unfortunately, every case is different. So we’re going to get there.
“We’re very optimistic about that, but right now he feels a little off and I give him credit. It’s against a hockey player’s nature to come in and say he doesn’t feel he can do it. He feels down a little bit about it, but we really support him and I give him a lot of credit for coming forward and giving us this information.”
Harding and Fletcher both said they weren’t sure how long the recent issues will bother the goaltender. Harding said he will continue playing but knows he needs to take care of his health first.
“Right now it’s day to day; just taking every day and seeing how I feel,” Harding said. “I have to deal with it. Coming into this, I knew it wasn’t going to be the most perfect road. There’s going to be some bumps in the road, for sure, and there’s going to be some challenges. I know things are going to get better, and I’m just staying positive.”