Advantage Kuemper? Harding on crutches after ankle injury

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The plight of Minnesota’s goaltending just took another dramatic turn.

Josh Harding, who was reportedly in good health following last year’s complications with multiple sclerosis, has injured his ankle and will miss part of the Wild’s training camp — possibly giving leverage to unsigned goalie Darcy Kuemper.

Here’s more on Harding, from the Star-Tribune:

Harding didn’t take part in the team’s captain’s practices the past two days at Xcel Energy Center, is walking with the use of crutches and will miss at least the start of training camp when players take the ice Friday. The injury did not occur on the ice, sources say.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher was scheduled to return to the Twin Cities from Traverse City, Michigan, where the Wild participated in a prospect tournament, on Tuesday night. The Wild does not yet know the extent of the injury or how long Harding will be out, although it’s expected to be awhile.

Fletcher is expected to meet with coach Mike Yeo, Harding and athletic therapist Don Fuller on Wednesday, as well as speak with team orthopedic surgeon Joel Boyd.

The ripple effect here will be extremely interesting. Last month, Fletcher proclaimed Harding and Niklas Backstrom were both healthy and ready to go, which some saw as putting the squeeze Kuemper — who, according to TSN, is demanding a one-way deal worth $850,000. The Wild want Kuemper on a two-way.

Harding’s latest setback will undoubtedly play into Kuemper’s favor. Both of Minnesota’s veteran goalies have had troubles staying on the ice, which has resulted in Kuemper getting extended looks at the NHL level. Last year, he bailed the Wild out of a tough situation by finishing as the goalie of record in 14 of 20 games during February and March, playing a big role in the Wild’s postseason berth (while Harding and Backstrom were on IR.)

The x-factor in all of this, though, could be Ilya Bryzgalov. If Fletcher really wants to keep playing hardball with Kuemper, he could turn to Bryzgalov, who in August told agent Ritch Winter to do all he could to facilitate a return to Minnesota, adding that he “loved the city and loved and appreciated the support he received from the coaching staff and Wild fans.”