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.
After the Eastern Conference Game 2s played out on Saturday, we’re getting the Western Conference set today. You can watch the action via NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Here’s a quick overview of where specifically you can watch the contests:
St. Louis at Dallas (3:00 p.m. ET)
If you want to watch the game on television, NBC is the channel to do that. If you want to stream the game with the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.
Nashville at San Jose (8:00 p.m. ET)
The game will be televised on NBCSN. You can also stream the contest by clicking here.
Here’s some relevant pregame reading material:
With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2
Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?
Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1
Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues
The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.
Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.
The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.
Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.
But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.
“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.
Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.
Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.
It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.
It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.
For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.
Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.
Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.
Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.
The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.
Also, it seems this is worth mentioning: