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Wild give Backstrom start against Maple Leafs

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With Josh Harding feeling ill Tuesday evening, the Minnesota Wild will go with Niklas Backstrom in goal when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN).

Harding, who leads the NHL with a 1.22 goals-against average and is second with a .947 save percentage, was not present for the team's optional morning skate Wednesday, but will back up Backstrom in the game.

"Harding was feeling a little under the weather [Tuesday] night, so we kept him off [Wednesday] and went with the one goalie rather than go through the motions and have an average skate," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I'd rather give the players the option of doing what they need to do to get ready."

Backstrom hasn't played since a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 28 and has a 3.42 GAA and .871 save percentage in six games. He missed nearly two weeks last month with a knee, which allowed Harding to take over in net and run with the No. 1 job.

"It's been a little bit difficult to get him in just because of how well Harding has been playing," Yeo said. "But this is a good opportunity for him [Backstrom] and obviously we have a lot of confidence in him too."

Toronto will counter with Jonathan Bernier, who is 7-4-0 for the Maple Leafs. He last played Nov. 8, stopping 34 of 35 shots in a 2-1 win against the New Jersey Devils. He has won three of his past four starts.

Bernier also has quite a track record in his career against the Wild, going 3-1-2 with a 1.14 GAA and .953 save percentage in six starts as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. Three of his seven career shutouts have come against Minnesota.

Here are the expected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Wild:


Joffrey Lupul - James van Riemsdyk - Phil Kessel

Mason Raymond - Nazem Kadri - David Clarkson

Troy Bodie - Jay McClement - Nikolai Kulemin

Frazer McLaren - Jerred Smithson - Colton Orr

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf

Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Mark Fraser - Paul Ranger

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: John-Michael Liles, Carter Ashton, Morgan Rielly, Trevor Smith

Injured: Tyler Bozak (hamstring), Dave Bolland (ankle)


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Nino Niederreiter - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Dany Heatley - Zenon Konopka - Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Clayton Stoner - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

Scratched: Mathew Dumba

Injured: Keith Ballard (upper body), Mike Rupp (lower body)

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