After multiple surgeries, Wild’s Backstrom challenges for old job

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Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom hasn’t been on the sidelines yet this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s 100 percent. He underwent core muscle surgery in March and sports hernia surgery in May 2013, which has significantly hindered his career. Even now, he’s still is involved in a daily rehabilitation process that will likely continue until at least the end of the 2014-15 campaign, but at the same time he’s made a lot of progress since the start of training camp.

“It’s a lot of work,” Backstrom told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “But when you miss a lot of hockey, you realize how much you love it and how much you miss just being with the guys. So if it’s going to give me a chance to be here, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

Before the 36-year-old goaltender ran into injury problems, he had a firm hold on the Minnesota Wild’s starting gig. However, he was outplayed by Josh Harding early last season and Darcy Kuemper got off to a similarly hot start in 2014-15 to once again marginalize Backstrom. Kuemper hasn’t been as effective lately though and Backstrom has a 1.97 GAA and .917 save percentage in nine contests. The stage seems to be set for Backstrom to make a serious challenge for his old job.

“He looks really good right now,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We haven’t determined our starting goalie (for Tuesday), but the way he’s played lately gives him a very good chance to get in the net.”

Minnesota will be looking to end its four-game homestand on a high note when they face the New York Islanders Tuesday night.