Goalie nods: Special night for Backstrom in return to Minnesota

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Thursday’s game at Xcel promises to be an emotional one for Niklas Backstrom.

The veteran goalie, who spent the first nine years of his NHL career in Minnesota, will be back to face the Wild for the first time since being dealt to Calgary at the trade deadline.

Backstrom, 38, enjoyed some major success in Minnesota, including the 2008-09 campaign in which he played a career-high 71 games, recorded a career-high 37 wins, finished with a .923 save percentage and was named a Vezina finalist, finishing third in voting.

Though he’s largely been inactive over the last 14 months — he was the third goalie in Minnesota with Devan Dubnyk as the No. 1 and Darcy Kuemper as the backup — Backstrom fared well in his first outing with the Flames, stopping 21 of 22 shots in a win over Montreal earlier this week.

Tonight figures to be a much tougher test than the Habs were, though. Minnesota is fighting for its playoff life, and will likely be scoreboard watching as the team it’s chasing for the final wild card spot, Colorado, is also in action against Philly.


— Key Atlantic Division tilt in Boston tonight, when the B’s host the Panthers. Roberto Luongo will go for Florida, but no word yet on a Bruins starter. Tuukka Rask started last night’s loss to the Rangers, but was hooked after 20 minutes.

— Scott Wedgewood makes his second NHL start after beating the Blue Jackets on Sunday. He’ll face off against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins.

Eddie Lack versus Sergei Bobrovsky as the ‘Canes invade Columbus.

— The Anaheim goalie timeshare continues as Frederik Andersen gets back into the net tonight in Toronto. The Leafs are going with Garret Sparks.

Petr Mrazek, who wasn’t terrific in relief of Jimmy Howard in Tuesday’s loss to Tampa Bay, goes for the Red Wings. Ben Scrivens goes for the Habs.

— Winnipeg is starting Ondrej Pavelec, who’s coming off a shutout of Vancouver. The Kings are likely to counter with Jonathan Quick.

Ryan Miller, who made 49 saves against the Blues in his last outing, will start for the Canucks. Nashville looks as though it’ll give Pekka Rinne the nod.

— Two teams in the thick of their respective wild card chases meet in Colorado: Steve Mason goes for the Flyers, Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Louis Domingue draws back in for host Arizona, giving Mike Smith the night off. The Stars will likely go with Kari Lehtonen.

— The red-hot James Reimer starts for San Jose. Cam Talbot goes for Edmonton.