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Status of goalies still uncertain for Wild

by Dan Myers

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Minnesota Wild were able to get one key piece of their lineup back Tuesday in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the team still has plenty of questions in goal with a pair of injured veterans and a rookie as the only answers.

By all accounts, forward Jason Pominville's return from an upper-body injury went off without a hitch and he is expected to play, in perhaps an even bigger role, in Game 5 on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2). Pominville began Game 4 on the Wild's fourth line before shuffling between there and the third line. He also played extended minutes on all six of Minnesota's power plays.

Pominville missed the team's previous five games.

But 36 hours before puck drop at United Center, the Wild have no idea who will be between the pipes -- or who will be healthy enough to suit up.

Niklas Backstrom, who started 41 of 48 games during the regular season, was injured during warm-ups before Game 1 and hasn't played in the series.

Josh Harding, who hadn't started a game in three months heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, has started all four games but was injured late in the first period of Game 4 and did not return.

Rookie Darcy Kuemper replaced Harding, stopping 16 of 18 shots, and allowed a critical goal on the first shot he faced just more than a minute into the second period, which turned a one-goal deficit into a two-goal disadvantage.

Wild coach Mike Yeo said all three goaltenders would travel with the team to Chicago on Wednesday but was coy when asked about the status of his veterans.

"We like to keep the other team guessing," Yeo said to reporters at the airport minutes before the team's flight to Chicago. "We're not only going to not tell them who our starting goalie is but we won't tell them who our backup is. We're going to leave them in the dark."

Following Harding's injury, no goalie was present on the Wild's bench until Backstrom appeared early in the third, dressed and apparently ready to play, had Kuemper gotten hurt.

If Kuemper gets the call in Game 5, it would be his first career playoff start and his fourth in the NHL.

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