GLENDALE, ARIZ. – Goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who missed last year’s playoffs because of a sports hernia, admitted Wednesday that he played a month last season with a “tear in the core muscle.”
Backstrom, who played 42 of 48 Wild games last season because of Josh Harding’s absence because of complications from multiple sclerosis, previously maintained the injury he sustained in warmups of Game 1 against Chicago was the first time he experienced any discomfort.
Backstrom believes the abdominal stiffness that caused him to miss Tuesday’s start in Los Angeles is related to last year’s injury.
“You have a problem somewhere and you compensate with something else, so I think it’s from that and related,” Backstrom said. “But compared to yesterday, today was a big difference, so I feel it’s heading in the right direction. I’m getting to where I want to be.”
Backstrom said he is not worried the current issue will linger, but because he’s not 100 percent and because Darcy Kuemper performed so well during a 39-save shootout victory against the Kings, it’s likely Kuemper starts against the Coyotes on Thursday.
“Kuemps playing like that definitely gives us the confidence that he can go out and do that any time we put him in there,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Kuemper also stopped all four shooters in the shootout, and after gloving down Mike Richards in Round 3, Kuemper coolly flipped the puck to the ice.
“My game’s at a place where I’m confident with it right now,” Kuemper said. “That takes a little of the question out and makes it a lot easier to be calm.”
Nino heats up
Yeo raved about Nino Niederreiter’s game against the Kings. He scored the Wild’s lone goal (his ninth of the season) to force overtime and scored the lone goal in the shootout.
“He’s got guts. That’s what I like,” Yeo said. “You see the way he’s competing in front of the net and standing eye to eye against guys, you have to have a lot of guts to play this game.”
• Defenseman Marco Scandella (lower body) missed practice Wednesday after blocking Justin Williams’ shot against the Kings. If he can’t play, former Nashville Predators defenseman Jon Blum will make his Wild debut. If Scandella plays, it wouldn’t be shocking if Blum still plays in lieu of Keith Ballard, who was benched the last half of the game in L.A.
• Defenseman Ryan Suter took the ceremonial pregame puck drop with Kings captain Dustin Brown Tuesday night from KISS band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
Afterward, Simmons had some words of wisdom for Suter.
“He said, ‘Just make sure you keep all your teeth and have fun out there,’ ” Suter said, laughing. “I said, ‘Oh, I’ll try.’ He seemed like a good guy.”