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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Harding suffers knee injury in Blues rout over #mnwild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild training camp Updated: September 25, 2010 - 6:57 AM

(edited/ updated at Saturday morning)

Here is the Wild's lineup vs. Philadelphia tonight: Fwds -- Brunette, Koivu, Kobasew, Nystrom, Wellman, Havlat, Madden, Clutterbuck, Earl, Kassian, Rau, Staubitz. Dmen -- Burns, Schultz, Zanon, Bagnall, Scandella, Prosser (Falk listed as potential sub). Goalies -- Backstrom, Khudobin.

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Potentially some terrible news here from St. Louis.

Josh Harding, who was hampered much of last season with a right hip injury that ultimately required surgery, injured his right knee during his exhibition debut with 6:23 left in the first period of the Wild's 5-0 loss to the Blues.

Coach Todd Richards said the Blues' doctor confirmed it's "something with a ligament."

The Wild won't know how serious until he's examined by team doctors and gets an MRI Saturday in Minnesota.

“He worked his butt off this summer to get himself ready for the season,” Richards said. “Right now we’re hoping it’s something minor and something that will take a little bit of rehab, a little bit of time off, and hopefully we can get him back on the ice as soon as possible.”

Harding didn't want to speak after the game. He wore a full leg brace and was on crutches. This, after I wrote this article in Friday's paper. He worked exhaustedly this summer to get back, came into camp in great shape, was back to his usual jovial self and was determined to push Niklas Backstrom.

Now he's likely to be out of the lineup for at least a little while. Anton Khudobin is next in line to back up Backstrom.

This is just a bad arena for Wild goalies.

In training camp in 2007, Harding strained his groin in this building. That put him on the shelf and suddenly unknown Niklas Backstrom jumped to the forefront, made the team as Manny Fernandez's backup and Harding was sent to Houston.

Then, three months later again here in St. Louis, Fernandez sprained his knee. Backstrom took the reins of the team, guided the Wild to the playoffs and adios amigos to Fernandez.

Harding said he originally hurt his hip in last year's training camp, so this is the third camp in four years that he's been injured.

As for the game, not a good one. Twenty-year-old Matt Hackett comes in, and instead of protecting the youngster, the Wild takes 6 minor penalties in the second period and 9 overall. Despite what the inaccurate boxscore will tell you, the Blues scored three power-play goals, not two, and that's six of 10 goals on the power play in two wins over the Wild.

Again, I know you're ready to panic in the streets of St. Paul, and if you read me enough, you're well aware I tell it like it is and don't make excuses for this team. But this game meant nothing to me.

The Wild brought eight veterans -- 3 of its top-6 forwards (Cullen, Latendresse and Miettinen) and checking forwards Nystrom and Brodziak. On D was Zanon, Zidlicky, Barker and Stoner.

So this was hardly the full array of guys. The rest were minor leaguers and prospects. Now I know I told you not to panic after Game 1, too, but I'm not going to go overboard with a first preseason game where many guys, after only scrimmaging for 2 days, looked overwhelmed by the speed of the game and couldn't play special teams after barely practicing it.

They lost tonight because they brought a bunch of kids who are not ready for the NHL, a few veterans have not found their games yet and because they continue to show atrocious discipline, and tonight with a very young goalie in net that is not ready for the NHL yet. And as far as those penalties, when you're caught off guard by the speed of the game, you're always a step behind and take obstruction and stick infractions.

But here's the concern from the first 2 games: Latendresse looks yucky, and he admits it. Barker's been bad, or as Richards said to my question about Barker tonight, "There's some guys right now struggling to find their game."

Frankly, the entire blue line is struggling.

I want to see this team in the last two games against Columbus after the major cuts come Monday before I start jumping to conclusions. But again, to the folks that are emailing me saying this team's lousy and it's time to fire anybody, look at the lineup brought tonight. If they play this way vs. Columbus next week with their real lineup, then it's time to worry.

What is amazing is St. Louis played a good chunk of their lineup, but they didn't dress a number of their guys and they still blew out the Wild in both games. This Blues team is going to be such a good team eventually. And to think some people inside the Wild's old regime debated me when I wrote how much better the young talent is in St. Louis and LA compared to Minnesota. 

Alex Steen and David Perron were outstanding. Perron just toyed with the Wild. He's going to be really good.

(Forget the Perron note I had in this spot before. Couldn't have gotten it more wrong).

Casey Wellman, I didn't see much from tonight. He got better as the game went on, but Richards felt he was taken out of the game because of the penalties. He wasn't on the PK. Colton Gillies, Matt Kassian and Carson McMillan showed good energy early. But they were on for some goals.

Nate Prosser and Tyler Cuma were real good early, but they started parading to the box and then their games fell off, especially Cuma, whom I was raving about on twitter. Barker was not good. Stoner started well, ended poorly.

OK, I better get out of the press box. The cleaning crew is up here and I'm the only one left. Check out Saturday's notebook for a little Bouchard note and the fact that there's a Boogaard back in the organization.

I've got an early flight, and if all's well, I'll get back in time for the morning skate and blog afterward.

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