After a crazy offseason, Mike Yeo’s plan for his goalies has come together.
Yeo — who, in early September, said he’d split the Wild’s first three preseason games among his three goalies — will accomplish that goal on Thursday when Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov take the net versus Pittsburgh, this after Bryzgalov and Niklas Backstrom shared Monday’s preseason opener.
For Kuemper, it’s his first game action since wrestling a two-year, $2.5 million deal out of the Wild following contentious contract negotiations. It’s also a chance to audition for the the workload that came available after Josh Harding’s injury (Harding was originally supposed to be one of the three goalies playing in the Wild’s openers, along with Kuemper and Backstrom.)
“I think [Kuemper] has gotten better every day in camp, and that’s what I’m looking for,” Yeo said, per the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “We’re not in too much of a hurry to make any judgments. We want to see all the guys get into some game action; we saw [Backstrom] and we saw [Bryzgalov] last night, and now [Kuemper] will get his opportunity in Pittsburgh, and we’ll go from there.”
Unsurprisingly, Yeo doesn’t sound like a guy rushing to make a decision about his goalies — probably because he doesn’t have to. As we wrote about earlier in the week, Minnesota could go the insurance route and carry three goalies for an extended period of time, as all three have question marks: Kuemper is young and talented, but has just 32 games of big-league experience; Backstrom is a cagey vet, but has been dogged by health concerns; Bryzgalov is, well, Bryzgalov.
The most likely scenario, though, is for the club to start with Backstrom and Kuemper, keeping Bryzgalov on speed dial in the event of emergency.