Wild's Backstrom and Harding put health concerns behind them

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2013 - 12:34 AM

Wild goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding came to camp prepared to put health issues behind them.


The circumstances couldn’t have been more different, but the effect was the same. Niklas Backstrom hobbled off the ice during warmups for the Wild’s playoff opener against Chicago last April, with a sports hernia that would bench him for the entire postseason. Josh Harding, who played in his stead, had missed much of the regular season because of symptoms related to multiple sclerosis.

Both Wild goaltenders were stunned last season by health issues, causing a slow start for Harding and a premature end for Backstrom. Both returned to training camp healthy, strong and eager to start fresh. And with the preseason schedule ending Friday in St. Louis, both said they are happy with their progress — a feeling echoed by their coaches.

Backstrom played his finest game of the preseason Wednesday, stopping 33 shots in a 3-1 victory over the Blues. Harding has surrendered two goals on 40 shots in a pair of road victories and is among the NHL’s preseason leaders in goals-against average (1.14).

After signing a three-year, $10.25 million contract extension last summer, Backstrom, 35, figures to remain the Wild’s primary goaltender. Harding, 28, got back on track with solid performances in the playoffs and said he is prepared to handle any role the team gives him.

“Having two quality goaltenders in this league, you need that,” coach Mike Yeo said. “You need a guy who’s going to go out and win games for you on a consistent basis, but that’s not enough. You need two guys you can play, whether it’s because of an injury, whether it’s to provide rest, or whether it’s because [one] has the hot hand. We have that.”

Yeo said Backstrom looked quick, big and in control Wednesday, boosting the team’s confidence as well as Backstrom’s. After having surgery in May to repair his sports hernia, he was off the ice for about six weeks. A smooth and relatively speedy rehabilitation left him plenty of time for his usual offseason routine, Backstrom said, including his cherished rest-and-recharge period in his native Finland.

That was particularly important after a season in which Harding’s absence caused a steep increase in his workload. Backstrom played 42 games and led the league with 24 victories.

He returns this season a happy man, delighted to extend his career in a city he has come to call a second home. “Injuries just happen, and you have to live with it,” said Backstrom, the franchise’s career leader in seven categories, including victories (141) and games played (281). “It was a lot of work in the summer, but it went pretty fast, and I feel good.

“I was really hoping it would work out for me to stay here. We have good chemistry in the locker room and a great bunch of guys, with a good mix of experienced players and younger players. My focus is the same. I’m just working to be a better goalie every day.”

Harding also said he feels great. Over the summer, he did yoga to increase his flexibility and worked on his conditioning and core strength.

It remains uncertain how much Harding will play this season, but he said he will accept whatever role the Wild defines for him. “I know my body now, and I know what’s going to work,” said Harding, who spent two months on injured reserve last season as he adapted to medication. “I’m excited for the season. It doesn’t matter if it’s me out there playing or if it’s me on the bench; whatever I can do for this hockey club, that’s what I’m willing to do.”

Goalie coach Bob Mason said Harding appears strong and rested, and he has seen no lingering effects from Backstrom’s injury. Even the small details in their games, he said, have been on target.

“They’ve both looked sharp in camp from Day 1,” he said. “Everyone is very pleased.”

  • related content

  • Wild notes: Next days crucial for Zucker and Granlund

    Friday September 27, 2013

    With two roster cuts yet to make, Wild coach Mike Yeo said Thursday he still is not certain who will stay and who will go.

  • Wild backup goalie Josh Harding has had a strong preseason, surrendering two goals on 40 shots (1.14 goals-against average) in a pair of road victories.

  • Backstrom

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Utah 49 3rd Qtr
Orlando 43
Charlotte 60 2nd Qtr 2:00
Philadelphia 45
Brooklyn 30 1st Qtr 1:48
Cleveland 23
Washington 25 1st Qtr 1:13
Miami 22
Minnesota 24 2nd Qtr
Boston 27
Toronto 26 2nd Qtr
Detroit 31
Chicago 7:00 PM
Portland 7:00 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 0 2nd Prd 18:42
New Jersey 2
Anaheim 0 1st Prd 5:53
Ottawa 2
NY Islanders 0 1st Prd 4:44
Detroit 1
Boston 7:00 PM
Dallas 8:00 PM
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 64 2nd Half 1:12
Radford 76
Stillman 21 2nd Half
Alabama 34
Case Western Reserve 41 2nd Half 17:27
Bucknell 48
Niagara 28 2nd Half
Buffalo 38
SD Christian 18 2nd Half
UC Santa Barbara 34
Concordia (MI) 28 2nd Half
Central Mich 51
Northern Ill 21 2nd Half 19:05
Dartmouth 33
North Florida 38 2nd Half 18:56
Florida A&M 26
Hiwassee 38 2nd Half 17:20
Gardner-Webb 56
Tennessee St 24 2nd Half
Hampton 29
NC A&T 25 2nd Half
Kent State 32
Central Penn College 35 2nd Half
Liberty 51
Eastern Ky 27 2nd Half
Miami-Florida 25
Northern Ky 49 2nd Half
Morehead State 27
Northern Ariz 26 2nd Half 16:33
Norfolk State 42
MD-Eastern Shore 26 2nd Half
Old Dominion 31
St Marys-CA 33 2nd Half
St Johns 18
Clemson 30 2nd Half 19:32
South Carolina 28
Tenn Tech 34 2nd Half 18:05
Tennessee 32
Washington-MD 18 2nd Half 17:38
William & Mary 48
Bethune-Cookman 9 1st Half 7:52
Mercer 24
Furman 20 1st Half 7:57
Fla Gulf Coast 23
South Dakota St 23 1st Half 3:58
CS-Bakersfield 20
Milligan 7:00 PM
LSU-Alexandria 7:00 PM
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Chattanooga 7:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Seattle 7:00 PM
Lipscomb 7:00 PM
Winthrop 7:00 PM
SE Louisiana
Dickinson State 7:00 PM
North Dakota
New Orleans 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Alabama A&M 8:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff 8:00 PM
Texas Tech
Eastern Wash 9:00 PM
Idaho State 9:05 PM
Utah State
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 42 2nd Half 7:41
Texas Tech 62
Toledo 52 2nd Half 4:45
Nevada 51
UMass Lowell 46 2nd Half 5:17
(13) Duke 82
St Marys-CA 26 2nd Half 20:00
Virginia 26
McNeese State 21 2nd Half
Rice 19
McMurry 24 2nd Half 16:10
Houston Baptist 40
NJIT 26 2nd Half 19:24
Seton Hall 42
(6) North Carolina 24 2nd Half
Maine 18
Lafayette 32 2nd Half
Stony Brook 32
Siena 32 2nd Half 15:52
Binghamton 25
Longwood 27 2nd Half
Clemson 34
Savannah State 29 2nd Half
Florida State 45
(19) Syracuse 29 2nd Half 20:00
(9) Baylor 26
Buffalo 27 2nd Half
Manhattan 17
Canisius 17 2nd Half 20:00
Michigan 41
Davidson 37 2nd Half 19:06
NC State 41
Northern Ky 33 2nd Half
Delaware 26
Saint Louis 20 1st Half 7:45
Austin Peay 25
(25) DePaul 26 1st Half 6:45
(2) Connecticut 40
Ohio U 28 1st Half 2:18
La Salle 34
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Florida Atlantic 0 1st Half 20:00
Long Beach St 0
Miss Valley St 0 1st Half 20:00
Memphis 0
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 1st Half 20:00
Bowling Green 7:05 PM
Illinois State
Arkansas State 7:05 PM
Missouri State
ULM 7:05 PM
Wichita State
(16) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Southern Ill
Utah Valley U 8:30 PM
Pacific 9:00 PM
New Mexico St
No Dakota State 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Utah State 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Bethesda (CA) 9:00 PM
Fresno State
LSU 9:30 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question