Minnesota Wild's goaltender Niklas Backstrom (32) stops the shot from Winnipeg Jets' Devin Setoguchi (40) as Wild's Ryan Suter (20) forces Setoguchi off the rebound during the second period of an NHL game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods)

Wild’s Backstrom shakes rust in surprise start, earns shootout win


Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom wasn’t supposed to play against the Winnipeg Jets this afternoon.

He had logged all of 11 minutes worth of ice time in November due to a knee injury and then a concussion. Now that he was finally healthy enough to be taken off of the injured reserve list, the plan was just to have him warm the bench in his first game back.

Then Josh Harding suffered a freak injury when he stepped on a puck during the team’s pregame warmups.

“You have to be ready all the time,” Backstrom said, according to the Wild’s Twitter account. “You have to find a way to be there for the guys. They’re always there for you.”

He certainly stood up for them. Backstrom kicked out 37 of 39 shots to maintain a 2-2 tie going into the shootout. He outdueled goalie Al Montoya in the skills competition to earn his first win since Oct. 26.

The 35-year-old netminder got off to a rough start this season and even now his 3.03 GAA and .892 save percentage are nothing to write home about. Still, he came through for the Wild to hand them their sixth win in seven contests.

Sabres place Lehner on IR; Recall Lieuwen

Connor Brown, Robin Lehner
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They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.

The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.

In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.

Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.

The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).

McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.



Chara ‘doubtful’ for game against rival Canadiens

Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara
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It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.

Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.

Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.

“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”

Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: