Ailing goaltender Josh Harding has found his way to injured reserve as the Minnesota Wild try to solve their scoring woes with a pair of call-ups.
Harding, who is dealing with complications from a change in medications for multiple sclerosis, said this week he has been feeling “a little off,” and Minnesota is trying to give its goaltender time to adjust. With the move to IR, the Wild added young forwards Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.
Minnesota, which hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, is second from the bottom of the NHL in scoring, averaging just two goals per game. Zucker, 21, leads Houston in scoring this year with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists). Larsson, 20, has scored 13 goals and dished out 14 assists.
Minnesota called up young goaltender Darcy Kuemper earlier this week after Harding told the team he was dealing with issues as he tries to continue playing with MS, a disease that attacks the body’s immune system and specifically the lining of the nerves. It can affect balance and vision and cause fatigue.
“Trying to take some new medications and stuff like that, the body obviously reacts a little different for everybody,” Harding, 28, said earlier this week. “There’s no doubt, we’ve been told by the doctors, that everything is going to be fine, but this was a possibility and unfortunate this has happened.”
Kuemper made his NHL debut Tuesday in a loss at Vancouver.
Meanwhile, the steady stream of prospects continues to arrive to bolster the Wild.
Zucker, who made his NHL debut late last season, was leading the AHL in shots on goal. He was third in power-play goals, 10th in goals and 14th in scoring. The speedy winger played in the AHL All-Star Game last month and had two assists in six games with Minnesota last year.
Larsson, who captained Sweden to the gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championships, was selected by the Wild in the second round of the 2010 draft and will be making his NHL debut.
The call-ups are reinforcements. Minnesota didn’t have any extra forwards on the roster, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Mike Russo reported that forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard and defenseman Justin Falk both missed practice Saturday with illnesses.
Putting Harding on IR gave the Wild the roster space and time for their goaltender to improve.
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 then came on in relief of starter Niklas Backstrom on Feb. 7 in a loss to Vancouver.
Earlier this week, Harding didn’t believe the recent complications would sideline him for long and said he was “100 percent” that he would return to play.
“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.”