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Bryzgalov gets start for Wild; Harding skates

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will start Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Bryzgalov relieved Darcy Kuemper with 8:13 left in regulation in a 5-4 Game 7 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference First Round. Kuemper remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury and did not make the trip to Chicago for the start of the best-of-7 series.

"He's going to go get checked out and he's getting worked on, and that's why we have him at day-to-day," Wild coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate Friday.

Kuemper was injured behind his net when he was knocked to the ice and appeared to hit his head on teammate Ryan Suter's knee.

Bryzgalov, who does not speak with reporters after morning skates when he's starting, finished out the game against the Avalanche and stopped the only shot he faced. After coming to Minnesota from the Edmonton Oilers at the NHL Trade Deadline, Bryzgalov started one game against the Blackhawks, a 3-2 shootout loss April 3 at United Center.

"He's awesome," Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle said of Bryzgalov. "Everybody's comfortable with him. He's easygoing, funny. He's always positive, which is the big thing. He's a positive guy and everyone loves to be around him. Nothing fazes him. No matter what happens, he shakes it off and goes out there and does his thing. It's pretty awesome to watch and you can learn from him."

Goalie Josh Harding, who has not played since Dec. 31 while adjusting the medication used to treat his multiple sclerosis, participated in the Wild skate on Friday. He will not back up Bryzgalov in Game 1, but Yeo didn't entirely rule him out for the series.

"Just more than anything else, let's just get him on the ice," Yeo said. "This is an extreme long shot to think he would have a chance to play in this series. I have to figure out exactly what the rules are. To be honest with you, I don't even know. For me, I'm not even considering it right now. If there's an absolute emergency or there's a desperate situation we find ourselves in, we'll be prepared for that. We're not getting him on the ice to get ready to play a game, let's put it that way."

The job of backing up Bryzgalov on Friday belongs to 30-year-old John Curry, who has played six NHL games, none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Curry, who made his Wild debut with 43 saves on April 10 in a 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues, said he is excited to dress for the first time in the NHL postseason but doesn't want to let the surroundings and atmosphere sidetrack his focus.

"It's great," Curry said. "I've got to make sure I'm sharp though. Anything can happen. When you're in the lineup you've got to be ready to go, so I had a good practice today and I'm just going to try and be focused and ready."

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