Wild's goaltending depth is worth evaluating

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2014 - 12:38 AM

The Olympic break will give the Wild time to recharge and size up its roster, especially the guys in goal.

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At the Wild game against Nashville, goalie Darcy Kuemper(35) makes a save.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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In the interim, Mike Yeo will head to Mexico and, like his players, try to unwind, get some R & R and relieve some stress before returning to Minnesota following the Olympic break.

“It’ll take about three days probably before I stop dreaming about hockey, before I stop writing things down in the middle of the night,” the Wild coach said.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher is sticking around during the 20-day break. Sure, he’ll try to unplug a bit himself, but his goal is to address needs before the March 5 trade deadline. There is a freeze on trades until Feb. 24, the day after the Olympics end.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the Wild goaltending situation, which will need to be put in clearer focus for the stretch run.

The Wild is 11-4-2 in its past 17 games, with a six-point advantage in the Western Conference wild-card race.

“Like every team, we have needs, but this year is interesting because with the cap situation so tight on every team, you’re probably only going to be able to address one need,” Fletcher said. “It’s going to be hard to go out and do everything, so you almost need to pick the most pressing.

“We could probably use upgrades, but we’ve become a pretty tight-knit team through this last stretch, so I’d be very comfortable finishing the season with the team we have.”

If Fletcher had to pick one need?

“We’re a team still in the bottom six offensively, yet over the last month and a half, we’re averaging three goals a game. So you want to be a little careful there and decide if you need to really go out and get scoring,” he said.

“I like the way we defend and we have decent depth, but you could always use another defenseman. We have to figure out our goaltending situation, but we like our depth there, too. So throughout our lineup, we’ve had better depth, which is why we’ve been able to overcome all our injuries.

“But that’s not to say you can’t get better depth and find a way to upgrade a particular position.”

In other words, everything’s up in the air.

First, there’s the chaotic goalie shuffle.

Rookie Darcy Kuemper started 12 consecutive games before the Olympic break and performed commendably, going 8-2-2 in 13 starts since Jan. 7. But he’s 23, so the Wild must decide if Kuemper can take the reins the rest of the season and, potentially, into the playoffs.

The great unknown

The team can’t rely on Josh Harding or Niklas Backstrom being that guy. Backstrom is 5-11-2 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .899 save percentage, hasn’t started since Jan. 11 and has missed three games since Jan. 7 because of soreness he believes is related to abdominal surgery last May.

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