ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild are still saying goalie Niklas Backstrom and defenseman Clayton Stoner are day-to-day with injuries, but coach Mike Yeo said Thursday that both players will make the trip to Chicago for Friday’s playoff game. Neither took part in Thursday’s practice at Xcel Energy Center.
Not making the trip, however, is forward Jason Pominville, who did not play Tuesday in Game 1 against the Blackhawks. He also missed Minnesota’s final two regular-season games after he was hit in the head with an elbow from Dustin Brown of the Kings.
“There’s no update really on those guys,” Yeo said after practice Thursday. “We’re just going to consider it day-to-day.”
Stoner played just 8:18 in Tuesday’s game. As a result, Minnesota’s other defensemen were forced to pick up extra ice time. Ryan Suter was on the ice for 41:08, which set a new Wild single-game record. Rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin, Suter’s defensive partner, played 34:20 in Stoner’s absence.
Stoner’s health could impact the rest of Minnesota’s defensive corps in Game 2 on Friday.
“Let’s just see what happens tomorrow, and then if he weren’t able to go then we might have to look at what we would need here to replace him,” Yeo said.
Backstrom was injured during pregame warm-ups on Tuesday, which forced the Wild to turn to backup Josh Harding. While Harding played well in the 2-1 overtime loss, Minnesota knows it needs reinforcements if Backstrom isn’t able to go. That’s why the Wild recalled goalie Darcy Kuemper from Houston.
Kuemper was at the Wild’s practice on Thursday and said he was watching Minnesota’s game Tuesday when he heard the news that Backstrom was injured.
“We were in Grand Rapids and we played the next day, so I was just sitting in my room watching the game,” Kuemper said. “I saw Backstrom go down. I wasn’t sure what was the issue there, but I was ready and had my phone on. I got the call just after the game.”
The 22-year-old Kuemper has played six games with the Wild this season and was 1-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average. He appeared in 21 games for the Aeros and had a 1.88 goals-against average.
A rare luxury: Thanks to two scheduled days off in between games one and two — as well as the proximity of Chicago to the Twin Cities — the Wild were able to fly home after Tuesday’s game and spend a few days in St. Paul before a scheduled flight back to Chicago on Thursday afternoon after practice.
“It doesn’t happen very often when you have two days in between,” said Wild captain Mikko Koivu. “I think it was a good thing with the short flight and all that. It was good that we came back and had a skate here and just get away from there a little bit and see your family and all that.”
The Blackhawks share the United Center with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, who host the Brooklyn Nets for a playoff game on Thursday night. That meant the top-seeded Blackhawks had to wait an extra day to host Game 2.
That was just fine with the Wild, who were able to take a 45-minute flight back to St. Paul and enjoy the comforts of home for two days.
“Part of the reason why we wanted to come home is first off, these last couple weeks have been like playoff hockey,” Yeo said. “So to come home and have a chance to reset regardless of whatever the outcome of that game was, we thought that would be important for our guys today to be able to reset and get refocused and get ready for the next one.”
The Wild will arrive in Chicago on Thursday afternoon and have some down time Thursday night, followed by a morning skate Friday at United Center. After two days back home, Minnesota will once again settle into a game-day routine.
“I think we wanted to feel like it’s the routine of going on the road,” said Suter, who spent Wednesday’s day off with his son at Xcel Energy Center. “You fly in the day before, have a good meal, and you get up and have a morning skate there. I think that’s the routine the coaches wanted. Obviously we support what they decide. It’s nice to be home on the day off. Especially this season; we haven’t been home that much. Whenever you can be around your family, it’s important.”