When it was announced on March 2 that Niklas Backstrom would be out with a groin injury for two-to-four weeks, the silver lining was that his understudy, Josh Harding, had been superb this season. Harding struggled in the starter role in a 6-0 loss to Detroit on the same day that Backstrom’s injury was announced, but he appeared to be turning a corner in Thursday’s game against Phoenix. At least he was until he “tweaked something” in the lower body area midway through the game.
Harding left the contest and while the severity of the injury is not known, this might be an even bigger problem for Minnesota than it appears. We can assume that Matt Hackett, who has 318 minutes of NHL experience under his belt, will take over as the team’s starting goaltender for as long as both Backstrom and Harding are out. But who will backup Hackett? The Wild’s fourth string goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, is out with an upper body injury and their fifth string goaltender, Dennis Endras, is playing in Europe. So we’ll just have to wait and see how Minnesota handles this situation.
It is possible that Harding’s injury will prove to be mild and he will be available to at least serve as the backup goaltender on Sunday, but Minnesota’s luck would have to change for that to happen.