CHICAGO – After reporters witnessed some crazy goalie drama during Thursday’s pregame skate, Mike Yeo decided not to force everybody to solve the riddle.
The Wild coach volunteered it up: Josh Harding would be starting the Wild’s must-win Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks eight hours later.
Harding didn’t last long. He was replaced by Darcy Kuemper six minutes into the second period after giving up three goals on 18 shots.
Harding, who had to leave Game 4 after the first period because of a lower-body injury, took one of the nets during a noontime “morning skate” like he was slated to start. He even took shots from the defensemen at the tail end, usually the indicator that he would start.
But suddenly, Harding began to show signs like he was having trouble getting to his skates after dropping into his butterfly.
Yeo and goalie coach Bob Mason began watching intently. The two suddenly turned and began watching Niklas Backstrom, hurt during warmups before Game 1, in the opposite cage. It was clear the veteran was having trouble during push drills.
Yeo and Mason turned back around and began watching Harding again. Finally, Harding skated over. Yeo then skated across the rink and had a long conversation with Backstrom.
“We don’t know how [Harding] 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 before the game.
Back and ready
Jason Pominville said he had no side effects after returning for Game 4 from five games off because of a head injury.
Pominville said he wished he had more than one practice under his belt before playing Tuesday, but he was pleasantly surprised with how little rust he felt. Almost 8½ of his 12 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time came on the power play.
“Feeling the puck on the power play and shooting was pretty good,” said Pominville, who skated on his pre-injury line with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard in Game 5. “I think we showed in the past we’re capable of doing good things offensively and being reliable defensively.”
One of the most commonly asked questions from fans about Wild warmup routines is why at the end of every warmup, Brodziak stands at the door of the Wild bench and attempts to flip a puck onto the top of the Wild net.
“I have no idea. I have no idea why I even do it,” Brodziak said. “It just started. I just do it for fun because I’m usually the last guy out there and [assistant equipment manager Matt Benz] is usually there and we kind of laugh about it.
“I’ve hit it a few times. There’s nothing superstitious. It doesn’t mean anything if I hit it or not.”
• The Wild signed 2012 second-round pick Raphael Bussieres to his three-year entry-level contract. Bussieres, 19, is playing in the Quebec League playoffs for Baie-Comeau. He scored 29 goals and 68 points during the regular season in 60 games. He has 16 points in 18 playoff games.
• Mike Rupp (knee) returned to the Wild lineup Thursday and Stephane Veilleux was scratched.