CHICAGO – If you’re a goaltender who was ridden from Day One of this shortened season to Day 99 and backstopped your team into the playoffs on the very final day, it’s safe to assume Niklas Backstrom couldn’t wait to start Tuesday’s Western Conference quarterfinal against the Chicago Blackhawks.
So just imagine what was going through the veteran’s mind when, 20 minutes before puck drop, Backstrom did something to his lower body that would make it impossible to start Game 1.
“I don’t know how many years — four or five years — I’ve been waiting for this, waiting to get back to the playoffs,” Backstrom said. “Then you get that close to a playoff game and this happens.
“It’s amazing. It’s hockey. It’s part of the game. It stinks, but you fight through it and try to get back stronger.”
Backstrom didn’t accompany the team to Chicago on Thursday but flew in Thursday night. He took part in Friday’s pregame skate but didn’t dress in Game 2 against the Blackhawks. Josh Harding made his second consecutive start with rookie Darcy Kuemper dressing as his backup.
Backstrom was injured during warmups three days before when reaching to his right for a rebound.
“You’re sitting there and you’re wondering what happened. It’s hard to describe,” Backstrom said. “I felt it right away and knew it’s not supposed to feel like that.”
His injury is undisclosed, as is his timetable. The fact Backstrom is on the ice again so soon would seem to be a good sign.
Backstrom is obviously extremely disappointed, “but you can’t get caught up in that,” he said. “You try to understand what’s going on and try to find a way to deal with it and get better and get back on the ice as soon as possible.”
Brodin tutoring continues
Jonas Brodin has talked often in the series about how influential defense partner Ryan Suter has been during Brodin’s exceptional rookie year.
Assistant coach Darryl Sydor said: “[Brodin] is like his little son to him. He really took him under his wing on and off the ice, whether it’s in the weight room or talking about the mental side of the game. He’s shown him a lot of what to expect from certain players; he gives him a heads-up about what this player or that player likes to do.
“I don’t think Brods goes into a game not knowing much about the other team.”
Suter has helped Brodin understand what it takes to log big minutes.
“I talked to him before the playoffs started,” Suter said. “I said, ‘Just make sure you’re eating good and drinking a lot of water.’
“After the game [Tuesday] night, I talked to him. He’s a pretty shy guy. He’ll wait to get his food until after the other guys, which a lot of young guys do. But I told him, ‘Just get in there. No one cares now.’ ”
Falk in for Stoner
Defenseman Clayton Stoner missed Friday’s game because of an upper-body injury. Stoner was hurt early in Game 1 after being hit hard by Chicago’s Andrew Shaw. Justin Falk, a 6-5 defenseman, took Stoner’s spot.
“He actually has played some good hockey,” coach Mike Yeo said of Falk, who missed Game 1 because Marco Scandella was recalled. “It’s nice to insert him into a place where we feel we can give him a good chance to succeed, too.
“You’ll see him out there more against more of their third and fourth lines — bigger lines, a little bit more physical. That’s the type of game that he should be playing.”
Jason Pominville missed his fourth consecutive game (head injury). The Wild still lists him as day to day.