DALLAS -- After starting Niklas Backstrom in goal for the past 12 games, a stretch in which the Minnesota Wild have gone 10-2-0, coach Mike Yeo decided to keep his No. 1 goaltender back in the Twin Cities. That means Matt Hackett will make his first start of the season Friday night against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
Hackett, who was recalled from Houston of the American Hockey League on Thursday, has yet to appear in an NHL game this season, but was 3-6-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average in 12 games with Minnesota last season.
“All I’m hoping to see is what he came up and did last year. He played very good hockey for us last year and we’ve seen him do that both at this level and the American Hockey League,” Yeo said. “We’re anxious to get him in a game. We’re anxious to see him play and prove what he can do.”
With the Wild playing the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center in the second game of a back-to-back, the Minnesota coach decided to carry three goaltenders for the time being, leaving Darcy Kuemper on the roster to serve as Hackett’s backup Friday. The move allows Yeo to leave Backstrom home so he can be fresh for Saturday’s visit from the reigning Stanley Cup champion Kings.
“We’ve been riding him hard. So an extra day [off] and to not have to travel today, I think it’s well-deserved but I think he could use it,” Yeo said of Backstrom. “This stretch has been so important to our team and he has been so good.”
Yeo will keep his lines and defensive pairings the same as they have been for much of the Wild’s current seven-game winning streak.
Minnesota did get some additional good news Wednesday. Goaltender Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, was on the ice participating in an optional skate with several of his teammates. It was Harding's first time on the ice since the Wild placed him on injured reserve Feb. 12.
“First off, it’s just really encouraging that he is back on the ice. This has been a tough story right from the start when we first heard it,” Yeo said. “To have him back around the team and to see him look as good as he looks right now, I think that’s a real positive for us. He’s fast and he’s athletic. We all know what he can add to our team if we can get him back quicker.”
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan is fielding the same lines and defensive pairings used in a 7-4 loss to the Wild in Dallas on Monday. Kari Lehtonen will start in goal for the Stars, his 13th consecutive.
Here are the projected lineups for Friday night's game between the Wild and Stars:
Injured: Josh Harding (illness)
Scratched: Jordie Benn
Injured: Ryan Garbutt (hand)
The Stars are in the third game of a season-long five-game homestand; they are 1-1-0 to this point.