The narrative of one of the NHL’s best feel-good stories has taken an unfortunate turn, and it’s possible the ending will be anything but storybook.
Minnesota goalie Josh Harding, who played brilliantly to start the year while dealing with multiple sclerosis, wasn’t at practice on Wednesday as Wild players returned from Olympic break. Harding has now been on injured reserve since Dec. 31 and hasn’t skated in nearly two months.
“Obviously, it’s getting difficult,” head coach Mike Yeo told the Pioneer Press. “We feel for him right now, but we’re behind him and we just want to see him get better and get ready to get back with us.”
Yeo said the Wild are “giving [Harding] his space” and reluctant to classify where the goalie’s at health-wise, or what his outlook is for the season. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent Harding — sidelined in December to undergo a change in MS treatment protocol — is in danger of not playing again this season, though Yeo said that discussion hasn’t happened yet.
“We haven’t had any of those conversations,” he said. “I’m still hoping that every day he’s going to feel better and he’s back in the lineup. But again, we don’t want to put any pressure on him. We want to be here for him, so when he feels better and he’s ready to rejoin us, we’ll be more than happy to have him back.”
Over the break, Minnesota signed journeyman goalie John Curry in the hopes of adding some stability to the goaltending position. The former Pens goalie was brought aboard to keep the Wild from shuttling Johan Gustafsson back and forth between Minnesota and AHL Iowa.
Coach KK said Gustafsson’s trips up and down I-35 “not a healthy situation. Now, when they need a goalie, we keep our young guy here.”
— Tom Witosky (@toskyAHLWild) February 17, 2014
(KK is Iowa head coach Kurt Kleinendorst.)
For now, it sounds like the Wild are prepared to move forward with Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom in goal. The veteran Finn has been judged to be in good health and ready for the stretch drive and playoffs.