Niklas Backstrom sidelined, Josh Harding to start in goal

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom is day-to-day with a knee strain after he was injured in Tuesday’s loss in Nashville. 

Backup goalie Josh Harding will start for Minnesota in Thursday’s game against Winnipeg. Wild coach Mike Yeo said Backstrom will be re-evaluated later Thursday to determine whether he will be able to back up Harding.

“We’ll just have to see how he feels tomorrow,” Yeo said. “Good news that it’s nothing serious.”

Backstrom was injured during a collision with Nashville’s Eric Nystrom. As Nystrom ran into Backstrom, the Wild goalie slammed into the goal post. He left the game with Minnesota trailing 2-1 and gave way to Harding.

It was a tough situation for Harding to enter, as Nystrom was awarded a penalty shot on the same play that resulted in his collision with Backstrom. Nystrom scored on the shot to give the Predators a 3-1 lead in the first period, a deficit the Wild couldn’t overcome as they fell to 0-1-2.

In more than two periods of play Tuesday, Harding allowed just the one goal to Nystrom on 20 shots. Thursday will mark his first start of the season.

“I came in here knowing I’m going to have to play some games — and some big games — and find a way to win,” said Harding, who played in 10 games last season, including all five of Minnesota’s playoff games when Backstrom was injured. “I’m going to be ready whenever they call my number. Whenever I’m in there, I’m going to try to give the team a chance to win.”

Even with the Wild’s top goalie not starting Thursday, Yeo remains confident in his backup after seeing Harding step into Tuesday’s game.

“What I liked is how he responded,” Yeo said of Harding. “I can’t imagine how difficult that is for a goalie to come in and the first shot that you have to face is a penalty shot — let alone come in and you haven’t even had a chance to really stretch. I thought that was a very difficult situation to come into, and I thought he played a very strong game after that.”

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