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Bryzgalov likely to start Game 1 for Wild: report

by Mike G. Morreale

Ilya Bryzgalov reportedly is the likely starter in goal for the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN).

Ilya Bryzgalov
Goalie - MIN
GAA: 4.25 | SVP: 0.826
Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Thursday night that Bryzgalov is likely to start, with John Curry serving as his backup. Bryzgalov replaced Darcy Kuemper with 8:13 remaining in the third period of the Wild's 5-4 overtime victory in Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Kuemper couldn't continue after sustaining an undisclosed injury.

Bryzgalov made one save in 13:15 of action before Nino Niederreiter's goal won the game at 5:02 of overtime.

Bryzgalov is 1-2 with a 4.25 goals-against average and .826 save percentage in three games. Kuemper is 3-1 with a 2.03 GAA and .913 save percentage. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, the goaltending tandem at the start of the season, are out with injuries. Curry made two appearances, including one start, during a late-season recall.

Wild coach Mike Yeo provided no update on Kuemper during a press conference Thursday evening in Chicago

"All four of these guys have done a great job at some point during the season for us," Yeo said. "But again, I think an awful lot of credit has to go to the guys and the way they play the game in front of them. So those guys have done the job but our team has played a game in front of them that has given them a chance to be successful too, and that game hasn't changed."

Yeo was also asked about the return of forward Matt Cooke, who was suspended for seven games by the NHL for injuring Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie with a knee-on-knee hit in Game 3 of their series. Cooke is eligible to return for Game 4 of the series against the Blackhawks on May 9 in St. Paul.

"This is a guy that we really value, because of what he can add in the Stanley Cup Playoffs," Yeo said. "His physicality, I think, could be a factor in this series. His ability to get in on the forecheck and as far as finishing checks and disrupting and just sort of the awareness the other team has when he's on the ice."

Cooke has one assist, six penalty minutes and ranks fourth on the team with 18 hits in three playoff games. In 100 career postseason matches, Cooke has 13 goals, 34 points and 135 penalty minutes. He was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Cup-winning team in 2009.

"Probably more important is just his experience in these situations, his ability to help our young players, his ability to help on the penalty kill as a checking forward, so we'll try to keep him involved here," Yeo said.

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