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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Josh Harding placed on injured reserve, Johan Gustafsson recalled

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: December 18, 2013 - 6:39 PM

The Wild has placed goaltender Josh Harding, who has multiple sclerosis, on injured reserve and has recalled Johan Gustafsson.

He must miss a week, meaning the next three games at least.

GM Chuck Fletcher said during a phone interview that Harding needs to make some changes to his treatment protocol and the Wild is confident he'll be able to rejoin the team in Winnipeg on Dec. 27.

"This is not a major situation at all," Fletcher said. "This didn’t come out of the blue. I’ve been talking to Josh for awhile about this. He needs to make an adjustment in his protocols and now is a good time to do it. He feels good. He played well last night, but it’s just something that has to be taken care of."

Fletcher basically said the changes Harding needs to make, he can't play through them, so this is as good a time as any to take care of it.

"This is not a setback, this is not a sitation where something occurred in the last 24 hours," Fletcher said.

Harding made 29 saves in last night's 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver, his second straight shootout win. He is 18-5-3 in 27 games this season and ranks first in the NHL with a 1.51 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. His wins rank second.

Harding missed two months last season with complications with his medication.

Niklas Backstrom will start at least two of the next three games and with three games in five nights as opposed to the normal four, maybe he even starts all three. He is 2-5-2 this season with a 2.93 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. Fletcher said, "we all have complete faith in Backy."

It's unclear if Gustafsson will make his NHL debut on this trip in a starting role. The Wild plays in Philadelphia on Monday. Remember, twice earlier this season, the Wild recalled Gustafsson just to sit back up and then called up Darcy Kuemper to start. The second time, Harding was pulled in Montreal and wound up starting instead of Kuemper in Ottawa.

Kuemper is starting tonight for Iowa. Fletcher said the decisions will be completely up to the coaches as to whether Backstrom starts all three or if Gustafsson or Kuemper gets one of the starts.

Kuemper has struggled this season. In two NHL appearances, he is 0-1 with a 6.10 goals-against average and .625 save percentage. He is 6-9 with Iowa with a 2.68 GAA and .923 SV%.

Gustafsson, 21, is 4-4-0 with a 2.95 GAA, a .898 SV% and one shutout in nine games with Iowa this season. The 6-foot-2, 199-pound native of Koping, Sweden, went 20-13-0 with a 1.70 GAA, a .929 SV% and four shutouts in 33 games for Lulea HF in Sweden’s Elite League last season. Gustafsson was selected by the Wild in the sixth round (159th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

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