The Minnesota Wild will enter training camp next month with three goaltenders, Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper, competing for the starting job. Wild coach Mike Yeo said each will have a chance to win the No. 1 job.
"I have to say we're kind of open right now, to be honest with you," Yeo told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune on Wednesday during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair. "We're going to have some scrimmages … but we're going to have to pretty quickly determine who we want to give a greater workload to after that. That's going to be a good challenge."
Harding was one of the NHL's top goaltenders early last season. He was 18-7-3 with a .933 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average in 29 games, but his season ended prematurely when he left the team at the end of December for treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Backstrom, who's been the starter for most of his time in Minnesota, had his season ended by an abdominal injury that required surgery. Kuemper stepped into the No. 1 job in January and played well before sustaining a late-season concussion. Ilya Bryzgalov saw the majority of playing time during the Stanley Cup Playoffs but was not brought back.
After watching the revolving door in goal in 2013-14, Yeo knows his goaltending situation can change quickly, even after he chooses a starter.
"One thing I learned about last year is we shouldn't anticipate anything. Let's just go day by day. Obviously I'm hopeful that everybody's healthy. That's No. 1," Yeo said. "We know that we have three quality goalies. If they're healthy, they can compete and win hockey games for us.
"Really, the players are going to determine it. Obviously [goaltending coach] Bob Mason will be very involved in it, the rest of the coaching staff will be involved in it. It doesn't mean if you win you're going to stay in. I'm not a believer in that. But at the same time, your play will dictate how much and how often you'll play."
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