Bryz by default: Kuemper not with Wild, Harding ‘extreme longshot’ to play

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Minnesota’s goaltending saga continued on Friday, as head coach Mike Yeo said that Darcy Kuemper — who started the Wild’s Game 7 win over Colorado — didn’t travel with the team to Chicago due to an upper-body injury, and that Josh Harding, who took today’s morning skate, is an “extreme long-shot” to play in this series.

That means — barring a brazen decision to put 30-year-old journeyman John Curry in goal — Ilya Bryzgalov is your Game 1 starter tonight at the United Center.

The Kuemper development isn’t a huge surprise. He was hooked from Wednesday’s 5-4 OT win against the Avs with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation, after appearing to have re-aggravated his concussion issues (maybe not the right terminology there, but I digress) on a collision with Matt Duchene.

Here’s more, from the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

Duchene collided with Kuemper behind the net. Kuemper fell and his head hit Ryan Suter’s knee. He looked shaken up but stayed in the game. The Stastny and Johnson goals probably should have been stopped. With 8:13 left, Suter went over to Kuemper to talk to him.

He skated to the bench, talked to Yeo and Ilya Bryzgalov stood up and finally entered the game after athletic therapist Don Fuller pulled Kuemper. Kuemper missed the final seven regular-season games and couldn’t start Games 1 and 2 of this series with a concussion. I think he had a relapse.

The Harding development is a little more surprising. While he’s been around the team for a while now and resumed practicing in early April, Harding hasn’t played Dec. 31 after undergoing a chance in his treatment protocol for multiple sclerosis. He took an extended leave from the team because he wasn’t feeling well — something many assumed would lead to him being shut down for the year — but Yeo made a point of saying he hasn’t ruled out Harding’s return (while acknowledging such a return was unlikely, of course).

If Harding’s healthy, the possibility of getting him back is huge. He playing at a Vezina-caliber level prior to going on IR, posting outrageous numbers ( 18-7-2, 1.66 GAA, .933 save percentage) while emerging as the Wild’s first-half MVP.