Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Harding to start tonight against drowsy Edmonton; backup unknown

Posted by: under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 4, 2010 - 5:31 PM

By Brian Stensaas

Goaltenders Wade Dubielewicz and Anton Khudobin (just called up this morning) took the ice for this morning's pregame skate nearly 20 minutes early. Then - surprise! - they were soon joined by Josh Harding.

Three goalies, one sheet of ice, one game eight hours later. What to do, what to do???

Well, what Todd Richards did was rotate Dubielewicz and Khudobin in and out of drills on one end of the ice and let Harding take everything on the other. The result? Richards liked what he saw (or, at least he was satisfied) out of Harding and his ailing hip. Richards officially named him the starter for tonight's game.

Richards etched it in stone when he told the gathered media, "The good news is Josh will start the game" about 20 minutes after the morning skate ended. But there were signs all over the place. Harding was the first goaltender off the ice. When I asked him for an interview, he declined (politely, I might add) which is his policy on gamedays he's starting. And Richards summoned Harding into the off-limits area of the Wild's locker room.

So, really, it wasn't much of a surprise once it was made official.

The only real question is: who backs up Harding? No hints were given and I was basically chased out of the Wild's locker room while waiting around for some news

For now, with Niklas Backstrom placed on IR this morning because of his bad back and a lingering illness, it appears both Dubielewicz and Khudobin will stay with the Wild. Richards said with three days off after Saturday's game against the Flyers, some further decisions will probably be made then.

By the way, Backstrom can come off IR at any time. The Wild needed to make room for Khudobin, and that was the logical move.

One more lineup note: Derek Boogaard did not skate, so he's still out with that bum hamstring. The forwards will remain the same for tonight's game, but Richards said big John Scott might get in the lineup on the blue line. Stay tuned.

OK - it's empty here at the X and I'm going to scoot out for a bit. Normally right now I'd be filing this with some company down on the ice. But the Oilers are not skating today, and for good reason. After playing the Flyers last night back home, Edmonton flew here in the overnight hours, landing around 3:45 a.m. It was another hour before they got checked into the hotel.

Philly's team plane flew directly here, too, landing about 20 minutes after the Oilers. It's a little weird seeing both Flyers and Oilers team equipment stashed in the hallways down by the locker rooms.

Russo will be here in a bit to cover the game. Never fear - I'll be around, too. One of us will update prior to the puck drop. 

CIAO!

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