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 injured in Wild's shootout win at Phoenix; Wild in a goalie pickle

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 9, 2012 - 12:15 AM

The Wild’s got a bit of a goaltending dilemma … well, only if you consider being out of them a problem!
With Niklas Backstrom already on the shelf with a groin injury, Josh Harding, who was having an awesome game by stopping all 24 shots he saw against the Phoenix Coyotes, “tweaked something” in his lower body at the 31:38 mark of tonight’s eventual 3-2 shootout win over Phoenix.
The severity is not yet known, coach Mike Yeo said.
Over the weekend, Darcy Kuemper, the franchise’s fourth goalie, injured his upper body and could be out for the season, GM Chuck Fletcher said. He is being flown to Minnesota to see Wild doctors. The fifth goalie, Dennis Endras, well, he returned to Europe at the start of the season to play for HIFK in Finland (the team Backstrom owns a piece of).
What to do? What to do?
Well, until we know how long Harding will be out, the net belongs to Matt Hackett, who made 15 saves tonight, won his first NHL shootout and the third game of his career (second in relief of an injured Harding). Hackett says he’s ready to prove he’s an NHL goalie, and I don’t doubt the kid (read the game story for his comments).
“He’s got a swagger about him, a confidence that you need in that position,” said Yeo, who coached Houston when Hackett, the nephew of former NHL goalie Jeff Hackett, guided the Aeros to the Calder Cup Finals last year. “I’m pretty sure that he wants the net.”
But who will back Hackett up Sunday against Calgary?
During the second intermission, I found Fletcher in his box here in Arizona already scouring the goalie lists of European teams. The problem, Fletcher said, is he can only sign a goalie who’s team won’t make the playoffs and a goalie who will not represent his team in the world championships.
Do that, and he will have to pass through waivers first, meaning the Wild could be looking for another 50-year-old goalie for Sunday like Paul Deutsch. Fletcher wasn’t even sure if the Wild would be allowed to sign him again. Remember, you can’t be a pro to get on an amateur tryout, meaning goalie coach Bob Mason is out, as well as assistant to the GM and Houston GM Jim Mill.
Shep Harder, the Wild’s director of hockey administration, was a stud goalie at Blake back in the day (hopefully you read my feature on him in Jan. 2010), but Fletcher said he’s a “workers compensation case waiting to happen.”
The other option is to sign a goalie on a minor-league contract. Fletcher’s on it, Yeo said.
As for tonight’s game, character win. The Wild was playing with 5 defensemen with Jared Spurgeon sick, Clayton Stoner not ready and Tyler Cuma unable to make his plane (read the notebook for his comments).
And, Kurtis Foster is playing with a wonky back. Yeo called the effort by the five – Marco Scandella, who was a horse tonight, Tom Gilbert, who was plus-2 and blocked six shots, Steve Kampfer, who scored his first goal as a Wild, Foster and Nate Prosser “tremendous.”
Scandella, Gilbert and Kampfer all topped 30-minutes.
Then, guys were sick, like Devin Setoguchi, who threw up a few times during the game and still scored a must-score shootout goal in Round 4. Dany Heatley won the shootout, and of course, Erik Christensen continued his illustrious shootout career with his 27th.
The Wild had been outscored 14-2 in the first period the previous seven games. It had given up the first goal in eight consecutive games, and within the first 3 minutes, 5 seconds of the previous six.
Tonight, the Wild got to experience what it was like to score two quick goals for a change on goals by Kyle Brodziak and Kampfer 58 seconds apart. For Brodziak, it was his career-high 17th. Matt Cullen was awesome, motivated by his Spuds upsetting Eagan, he joked. Guys like Warren Peters were jumping in front of shots. As Yeo said, “character win,” for a team that’s been getting thumped lately.
“We needed it,” Peters said. “As hard as it is to try to explain, guys have been working. It’s mentally very hard to get yourself up in some satiations that we’ve experienced the last few weeks.”
Peters, Hackett’s former teammate in Houston, on Hackett: “Hacks’s shown the last two years he can rise to an occasion. He did last year on our [Calder Cup Finals] run and earlier this year in a callup situation. I don’t think you got a true judgment of Matt Hackett the last couple games he played. He didn’t have much of a team in front of him. We didn’t give him much of a chance.”
Anyway, that’s it for me. Kent Youngblood is on the team until Monday. Like I wrote earlier today, take a look at my Sunday column, which is on actor Seann William Scott, the star of the hockey comedy, “Goon.” He’s a native of Cottage Grove.


 

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