Wild's Harding takes time off to adjust MS medication

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2013 - 12:04 AM

The Wild goalie and club officials realize changes are inevitable in his treatment for multiple sclerosis.

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Wild goalie Josh Harding.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Josh Harding, searching for the right course of treatment for multiple sclerosis while playing goalie for the Wild, said his body hasn't reacted well to new medication the past couple of weeks, and he missed his scheduled start Tuesday night against the Canucks.
 
Harding wouldn't disclose his symptoms but said he is not having an "episode."
 
"I'm not going to go into too many details. Right now I'm a little off," Harding said. "The decision was made to take this one off and just take care of it right now."
 
Darcy Kuemper, the 2011 Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year and Western Hockey League Player of the Year, was called up to make his NHL debut while regular starter Niklas Backstrom gets the night off.
 
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said that when the season began, Harding promised to be honest with the organization any time he wasn't feeling 100 percent. Harding did that in recent days, Fletcher said.
 
Doctors advised Fletcher there could be trial and error with Harding's treatment and "that eventually we will get to the right spot where the medication works and his body adapts to it."
 
"It's not a one-size-fits-all solution," Fletcher said. "Every case is different, so we're going to get there. We're very optimistic about that, but right now, he feels a little off.
 
"I give him credit. It's against a hockey player's nature to come in and say he doesn't feel he can do it. He feels down a little bit about it, but we really support him and I give him a lot of credit for coming forward and giving us this information."
 
Last September, Harding felt a tweak in his neck. That evolved into dizziness, seeing black spots and numbness in his right leg. Wild doctor Dan Peterson discovered lesions on Harding's brain and informed the 28-year-old that he had MS, an incurable autoimmune disease where one's body randomly attacks and eats away the protective lining of his nerves and causes them to scar. It causes blurred vision and problems with balance and fatigue.
 
In November, Peterson said, "Thirty percent have a second episode in a year, 20 percent may take two to five years. It bodes well that we got on it right away before he got into a cycle of getting run down or his immune system flaring up. Maybe he never has another episode."
 
Harding said he had "no idea" what the next step will be.
 
"Right now it's day to day," Harding said. "I have to deal with it. Coming into this, I knew it wasn't going to be the most perfect road. There's going to be some bumps in the road for sure, and there's going to be some challenges. I know things are going to get better."
 
Harding said he is "100 percent" positive he will continue to be an NHL goalie. In fact, he went on the ice during the Wild's optional morning skate Tuesday and tended goal.
 
Still, as much as the Wild plans to support Harding, there is the hockey component to think about.
Harding is in the first year of a three-year deal. Niklas Backstrom, who turns 35 Wednesday, is in the last year of his contract. The Wild also has Kuemper, 22, and fellow prospects Matt Hackett in Houston and Johan Gustafsson in Sweden.
 
Hackett was considered the No. 3 in the organization, but Kuemper got the call because he has won five of six games in Houston and has the American Hockey League's second-best goals-against average (1.79) and save percentage (.938).
 
"He's been the best goalie in the American League the last month. He deserves to be here," Fletcher said.
 
Fletcher wouldn't speculate if Harding will need a few days or a few weeks.
 
"We're very confident we'll get there, but there could be some ups and downs along the way," Fletcher said.
 
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