On Thursday, Minnesota announced that goalie Niklas Backstrom underwent successful sports hernia surgery, and is expected to be recovered for the start of the 2013-14 season.
But will he be back with the Wild?
The 36-year-old is in the final season of a four-year, $24 million deal signed back in 2009. While still highly-effective — he tied for the NHL lead in wins this year, with 24 — it remains to be seen if Minnesota will bring him back.
(In a recent column, Mike Russo of the Star Tribune wondered if Backstrom had played his last game for the Wild.)
Minnesota has Josh Harding under contract ’til 2015 and, after missing a large chunk of the season due to complications with multiple sclerosis, Harding rebounded to play in all five of Minnesota’s opening-round playoff games against Chicago after Backstrom got hurt during warmups prior to Game 1.
(Harding finished with a .911 save percentage and 2.94 GAA, earning a Masterton Trophy nomination earlier this week.)
The Wild also have 22-year-old Darcy Kuemper in the mix.
The 2009 draftee was outstanding for AHL Houston this season (13-8-0, 1.88 GAA, .934 save percentage) and looked good in limited minutes at the NHL level this season.
That said, it’s tough to envision the Wild going with just Harding and Kuemper next season, so Backstrom could be brought back.
The x-factor will be the UFA goalie market — Backstom could be the best guy available depending what happens with Mike Smith in Phoenix and Evgeni Nabokov on Long Island.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.
(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)
The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.
Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.
As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.
More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.
That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.
(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)