Harding has stared all four games in this series after No. 1 goalie Niklas Backstrom was injured in the warmups before Game 1. He has done pretty well after being pressed into action until he was injured in Game 4, forcing third-stringer Darcy Kuemper into the game.
At the team's pregame skate on Thursday, all three goalies were on the ice. Wild beat writer Michael Russo was keeping tabs on the unfolding situation that made for a dramatic morning.
Harding has his own cage. Backstrom and Kuemper sharing a net #mnwild— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) May 9, 2013
Harding taking shots from the D. There's likely your starting goalie; slow to get up every single time he goes down #mnwild— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) May 9, 2013
Yeo talking to Mason by bench. Now they're looking at Backstrom and Kuemper. Backy doesn't look good either. Not a good situation #mnwild— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) May 9, 2013
It continued that way through the skate, with plenty of chats between coach Mike Yeo and goalie coach Bob Mason plus the goalies themselves. Eventually, Harding headed off the ice first, indicating Yeo had his starter.
"We don't know how he feels, but you have to trust him, and he says that he is good to go," Yeo said of Harding. Keumper will once again be the backup on the bench, not Backstrom.
So we know who will start, but the question is if Harding will be able to finish. If he was having troubles getting back up in practice, it's not going to be any easier in the game, when the speed and intensity picks up about 10 notches.
This would be a tough position any time of the year, let alone in the playoffs against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Blackhawks. I don't envy Yeo and the Wild's situation. It's rather amazing how unfortunate they have been in this regard. Injuries happen; these are just happening at the worst time.