Niklas Backstrom had never had a concussion before, but the Wild goalie knew enough about head injuries to take nothing for granted. After practicing with his team Friday for the first time in 10 days, Backstrom said he felt good, but he couldn’t predict what the next day might bring. It’s doubtful that anyone could have envisioned the strange scenario that unfolded at MTS Centre on Saturday. About halfway through the Wild’s warmup before its game against Winnipeg, goalie Josh Harding left the ice with a leg injury. “Some of the guys told me to get into the net,” said Backstrom, who was hurt on Nov. 13 and had played 11 minutes this month. “I didn’t really know what happened. You just try to prepare yourself to be ready.” With Harding in the trainer’s room and backup Darcy Kuemper at the airport, Backstrom proved he was more than ready in a 3-2 shootout victory. His play kept the Wild stable through a dreadful first period and allowed it to find its groove as it improved to 9-1-1 in November. Against the physical, speedy and inspired Jets, Backstrom stopped 37 of 39 shots, and a patchwork lineup twice erased one- goal deficits in giving the Wild its sixth victory in its past seven games. Mikael Granlund also was a surprise scratch because of an upper-body injury. That forced the Wild to start seven defensemen, and after the sluggish start, coach Mike Yeo was constantly juggling his lines. Despite all that, the Wild prevailed, defeating Winnipeg for the third time in three games this season. While Yeo praised his entire team for sticking with it on a day he called “bizarre,” he saved his biggest compliments for Backstrom. “He’s the difference in the game for us,” Yeo said. “I give our players a great deal of credit for dealing with the adversity of what happened at the beginning of the game. It’s a little easier to deal with it when you see your goalie go out and play the way he was. He kept us in it and gave us a chance to find our game.” Yeo did not have an update on Harding, who was injured during the warmup, but said he assumes the goalie’s status is day-to-day. He found out Harding could not play as the team was about to take the ice, and Kuemper was rushed back from the airport in time for the final two periods.
Backstrom steps up in Wild shootout victory at Winnipeg
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Nov 24