Harding will start Game 5 with Wild's season on line
CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild had three goalies on the ice for their morning skate Thursday, but Josh Harding will start against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center in Game 5 of a Western Conference Quarterfinals series Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).
Harding, who left Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday after one period with a lower-body injury, told Wild coach Mike Yeo following the skate he's healthy enough to start the elimination game. The Wild trail the best-of-7 series 3-1.
"[I was looking] to see him, obviously, go out there and make saves and more importantly for him to come to us and say he's ready," Yeo said. "We don't know how he feels, but you have to trust him. He says that he's good to go and there was absolutely no doubt about it. That's what we were looking for."
Rookie Darcy Kuemper, who subbed for Harding in the final two periods of a 3-0 loss in Game 4, again will be Minnesota's backup. Niklas Backstrom, who started 42 games in the regular season, will miss his fifth straight game after getting hurt in warm-ups prior to the series opener.
Backstrom did get his equipment on and sit on the bench after Harding's injury in the previous game, which led to speculation he might be available to start Game 5. He now appears to be further away from playing than what his dressing as the emergency backup suggested.
"This is what we've been dealt, but we were able to figure it out and now we should push all that stuff behind us," Yeo said. "The bottom line is we've got 20 guys going into the game [Thursday] and there are no excuses whatsoever on our part. You're in the lineup and you're there for a reason, and we've got a group that’s more than capable of winning this hockey game."
"[They'd] all give us a chance to win regardless of who's starting," he said. "They're all playing well. [Backstrom] played well all year for us, Harding's played well in the playoffs, and [Kuemper's] played well when he's been called upon too."
Wild forward Mike Rupp (knee) might draw back into the lineup at left wing on fourth line, but he likely will be a game-time decision after warm-ups. If he doesn't play, look for Stephane Veilleux to center the fourth line, with Cal Clutterbuck at left wing.
Here is how the Wild lineup could look for Game 5: