There was some wacky and wild goalie drama at today’s pregame skate for tonight’s must-win Game 5 of the Western Conference quarters against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Josh Harding, who left Game 4 after the first period with a lower-body injury, had one cage. Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper shared the other.
That was a clear indication that Harding was starting. Next, Harding took shots from the D toward the tail end of the skate. That usually cinches who is starting.
But slowly but surely, it became clearer that Harding was laboring. As Harding took shots, head coach Mike Yeo and goalie Bob Mason were talking and watching Harding. Suddenly, they turned and began watching Backstrom at the other end of the United Center’s rink. He, too, looked to be having bigtime trouble pushing off.
Yeo and Mason turned back and watched Harding. Harding skated over, began chatting with them. Finally, Yeo skated over to Backstrom and had a long conversation with him.
The final decision? Harding will start tonight with Kuemper backing up.
Why Harding? “We don’t know how he feels, but you have to trust him, and he says that he is good to go and there was absolutely no doubt about it, so that’s what we were looking for,” Yeo said.
On the crazy goalie drama, Yeo said, smiling, “You don’t know what we were talking about. I think we might have been talking about what we were having for lunch today.”
Yeo then turned serious and said, “This is what we’ve been dealt, but we were able to figure it out and now we should push all that stuff behind us. Bottom line is we’ve got 20 guys going into the game. No excuses whatsoever on our part. You’re in the lineup, you’re there for a reason, and we’ve got a group that is more than capable of winning this hockey game tonight.”
Defenseman Ryan Suter has never seen anything like the Wild’s postseason goalie situation, saying, “It’s too bad you have to deal with that. There’s so many distractions already. For us, we know whoever’s in net, we have to play hard and play our best if we want to win this game tonight. That’s been our attitude all year. It’s just someone different in net. Obviously it’s not Backy, who’s been there all year. Whoever it is, we have to go out and defend well and play in the offensive zone.”
Zach Parise said, laughing, “Honestly I don’t know who’s playing tonight.”
The Blackhawks expect the Wild’s best game. Yeo said, “If we can win this game, obviously we’d still be behind, some of the pressure would shift. We have to have a good focus of how to make that happen.”
Yeo noted that the Wild has been in similar situations. “Game 3, we knew without a doubt we had to win that game, and we played our best game of the series. Game 48, we knew we had to win that hockey game and we were able to go out and perform. Hopefully we can draw upon that.”
Yeo said, “3-1 is daunting. Tonight’s game is not necessarily that daunting.”
The reason, he says, is because even though the Wild’s execution last game wasn’t great, the Wild easily could have won that game. The Wild outchanced the Hawks, outhit them and drew six power plays. “Bottom line we didn’t score and they did. But there are a lot of things that can be taken from the last two games.”
Yeo talked about how great the Hawks have been defensively and how deep they are, saying, “If you would have told us through four games that Jonathan Toews wouldn’t have a point, we probably would have signed up for that pretty quickly. But obviously we still trail 3-1.”
As for lines, Jason Pominville will skate with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard – his line that was playing well prior to his getting hurt.
On the fourth line, Stephane Veilleux and Mike Rupp will be game-time decisions. One will play, one won’t, on a line with Torrey Mitchell and Cal Clutterbuck.
“They’re not going to lay over for us, by any means,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “Nobody wants to have their season over. We expect them to come hard and play a tough, tight game.”
Dave Bolland and Ray Emery are both out for the Blackhawks.
Just a real quick FYI, I’m going to be away from the team starting tomorrow for a little bit. I have a family emergency and need to leave town. We have plenty of capable folks to cover the Wild in my absence, and of course, I’ll do my best to keep one eye on the team. But I've got to leave unfortunately.
More from Star Tribune
More from Russo's Rants
The Wild plays the Buffalo Sabres at Penn State on Monday in each team's first preseason game
The Wild signed the veteran winger to a pro tryout, but he failed his physical.
The Wild coach ran his first practice of training camp Friday, and it included a grueling skate test
The Wild had a busy Thursday and will hit the ice for the first time Friday.
The Wild added 21 players from Traverse City on Wednesday, bringing the total to 60 for Thursday's opening of training camp.
Recommended For You
Down 10-0 in the first quarter, the Vikings woke up in the second half thanks to a Marcus Sherels punt return for a score and finished with eight sacks on Cam Newton.
Carolyne Giancola knew how to take “no” for an answer, but she says her bosses didn’t. When she worked as lead teller at the Elliot…
At issue is a three-year-old donation to an attorney general whose office was considering an investigation of his "sham university."
Dr. Penny Wheeler has built a sterling reputation as a collaborator and innovator. Now nurses say they feel betrayed.
The 20-year-old man suspected of killing five people with a rifle at a Macy's makeup counter had a string of run-ins with the law in recent years, including charges he assaulted his stepfather, and was described by a neighbor as so "creepy, rude and obnoxious" that she kept a Taser by her front door.
Recommended For You
Sam Bradford has shown the ability to throw downfield but not always the willingness.
Sam Bradford gives the Vikings a starting-caliber quarterback for this season and an insurance policy in the event that Teddy Bridgewater is not ready to return in 2017.
Before Teddy Bridgewater went down because of a season-ending knee injury, the Vikings felt they would draft no higher than the late 20s next spring.
All three 2016 draft picks the Vikings cut this weekend were brought back: offensive lineman Willie Beavers, German wide receiver Moritz Bohringer and defensive end Stephen Weatherly.
The Carson Wentz Era is now for the Philadelphia Eagles.