CHICAGO – Officially, goalie Darcy Kuemper is day-to-day because of an upper-body injury. Also officially, the rookie goalie wasn’t in Chicago for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night because he was getting “checked out.”
Ilya Bryzgalov started against the Blackhawks. John Curry backed up. Josh Harding took part in the morning skate. It was just another day in the Wild’s never-ending goaltending merry-go-round.
Kuemper, who missed the final seven games of the regular season because of a concussion and couldn’t start Games 1 and 2 of the first round as he worked his way back, was injured in the second period of Game 7. He collided with Colorado’s Matt Duchene and his head hit teammate Ryan Suter’s hip.
“Right away in the second period, I thought he was hurt,” Suter said. “I asked him, ‘You all right?’ And he didn’t say anything, so I said, ‘Well, you’re not coming out. You’re fine, you’re tough, you’re playing.’ ”
Suter added with a laugh, “I probably shouldn’t have said that.”
But in the third period, after Kuemper allowed a fourth goal that gave Colorado a one-goal lead, play stopped.
“Someone said he was having a problem,” Suter said. “I started talking to him and he was like, ‘Yeah. I’m fine. I’m fine.’ I said, ‘Darcy, what do you want to do?’ He goes, ‘I’m fine.’ I was just the in-between. I didn’t make the decision to take him out. At the end of the day, [athletic therapist] Donny [Fuller] got him out of there.”
‘Anything can happen’
Curry was sitting in a Pepsi Center suite in a business suit with several of his scratched teammates. He ran down to the locker room to suit up. Five minutes later, he was in the middle of a celebratory pile wearing a Wild uniform as teammates reveled in their Game 7 victory.
That’s one reason why Curry prepared as if he could even get in Friday.
“Anything can happen,” said Curry, the former Breck star who made 43 saves in his first NHL appearance in four years April 10 against St. Louis. “The gravity of the position, you better know you can play at any time.”
Curry, 30, has especially learned that with the Wild, which has used five starting goalies this season. It’s interesting that Harding, sidelined since Dec. 31 because of complications from multiple sclerosis, took the ice Friday for practice.
“This is an extreme long shot to think he would have a chance to play in this series,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Of course, stranger things have happened. In last year’s playoffs, Harding was sidelined for two months because of MS and had to start every game in the playoffs for injured Niklas Backstrom.
“If there’s an absolute emergency or there’s a desperate situation we find ourselves in, we’ll be prepared for that,” Yeo said. “We’re not getting him on the ice to get ready to play a game, let’s put it that way.”
If Harding can’t return in the series, the Wild’s only insurance for Bryzgalov is Curry, who has played six NHL games. During Wednesday’s game in Denver, Curry talked with scratched forward Mike Rupp about how quickly things can change for a goalie.
“A period later, I’m dressed on the bench,” Curry said.