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

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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.