Zach Parise stopped next to Josh Harding a few minutes before the puck dropped in the Wild's first playoff game in five years, and only a few minutes after Harding learned he would be starting.

Parise wanted to share a few words with the goalie before his first start since January.

"It's your time now," Parise told the 28-year-old goalie.

Harding's time came after Niklas Backstrom's time. And up until Game 1 against the Blackhawks on Tuesday, April 30, in Chicago, it looked as if there wouldn't be time for anyone else.

Backstrom played in 27 of the Wild's final 28 regular-season games and 42 of 48 in the lockout-shortened season. At 24-15-3, he is perhaps the biggest reason the Wild squeezed into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed.

Tuesday was supposed to be more of the same. Coach Mike Yeo had ridden Backstrom this far, and he wasn't going to stop once the playoffs started.

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the fall, and spending most of the season on injured reserve while doctors adjusted his medication, Harding was an unlikely candidate to make his second appearance since Feb. 7 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But after Backstrom suffered a lower-body injury in warmups, the Wild had no other option, and that might still be the case when the series resumes Friday with Game 2 at the United Center. The Wild recalled Darcy Kuemper from their American League Hockey affiliate on Wednesday to back up Harding if Backstrom can't play.

Yeo said Wednesday that Backstrom is "day to day," adding, "We'll just have to see how he comes in tomorrow."

If Backstrom is forced to miss multiple games, can Harding repeat that performance? Over multiple games?

"Yes," Yeo said.

Remarkably, Harding was one of the biggest reasons the Wild nearly beat the top-seeded Blackhawks. He stopped 35 shots and kept a high-powered offense at bay with help from a dedicated defense before the Presidents' Trophy winners won 2-1 on Bryan Bickell's overtime breakaway goal.

Harding's previous appearance was mop-up duty in the home finale against Edmonton, a 6-1 loss in which he gave up three goals on 12 shots. At that point, it was easy to make the case that Harding wasn't even the second-best goalie in the organization.

But Yeo opted against calling Kuemper up for the playoffs despite having plenty of room on the roster. Then Tuesday, the unthinkable happened. Backstrom, the Wild's iron man, got hurt knocking away a warmup shot minutes before the playoff opener against the NHL's best team.

Exit Backstrom. Enter Harding.