Harding injury creates Wild roster dilemma

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2013 - 12:11 AM
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Wild goaltender Josh Harding

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– Goaltender Josh Harding returned to the Twin Cities on Sunday to be examined by team doctors after sustaining an injury to his left leg during warmups Saturday in Winnipeg.

Coach Mike Yeo said a magnetic resonance imaging test was negative and the Wild was awaiting word from Harding if he would be able to return to St. Louis to back up Niklas Backstrom against the Blues on Monday.

“Everything seems good,” Yeo said of Harding, who apparently suffered spasms. “If he feels good enough, we’re hoping he can back up [Monday]. But again, we’ve got to make sure that comfortwise, his pain tolerance, he’s able to go out and perform if needed to.”

If Harding is unable to return, it potentially puts the Wild lineup in a state of flux. That’s because the roster is at the maximum 23 players. Forward Torrey Mitchell, who will miss his third game because of a leg injury, can be placed on injured reserve to create a roster spot.

The problem is center Mikael Granlund might miss his second game in a row because of an upper-body injury. If he can’t play, the Wild won’t be able to call up a forward if goalie Darcy Kuemper has to take the open roster spot.

Yeo wouldn’t offer specifics as to what plagues Granlund, who took a crushing hit Wednesday from Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot. Granlund hasn’t been ruled out to play in St. Louis, but if he can’t play and the Wild can’t recall another forward, Yeo will have to either go with seven defensemen (Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba) or left winger Mike Rupp will have to make his season debut.

Rupp was expected to join the Wild in St. Louis late Sunday after a five-game conditioning stint with Iowa of the AHL. Rupp’s toughness could be a benefit against St. Louis.

“I don’t have the full report yet, but I talked to [director of player development] Brad Bombardir and he said he thought that it looked like every game [Rupp] got a little bit better,” Yeo said. “I’ll wait to talk to Rupper personally and see how he feels about it. It would be unfair for us to expect [him to be on top of his game] right from the start.”

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon didn’t practice Sunday, but Yeo expects him to play. Yeo said defenseman Keith Ballard isn’t ready to return from broken ribs.

Playing seven defensemen isn’t usually the best recipe unless the minutes are more evened out than Prosser logging 3 minutes, 49 seconds in Winnipeg. Dumba played 14:42.

“You saw how much [Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise] had to play [24 minutes each],” Yeo said. “They didn’t look any worse for the wear at the end of the game, but at the same, it’s usually not ideal.”

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