After last night’s Wild, 3-2, shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets, there were a lot of questions about the club’s lineup heading into its next matchup, tomorrow against Central Division foe, the St. Louis Blues.
Goaltender Josh Harding was scheduled to start against Winnipeg, but left during warm-ups with a lower-body injury. Mikael Granlund didn’t come out for warm-ups and was out with an upper-body injury, and the team had to dress seven defensemen.
So, with those questions in mind, today the team was on the ice at Scottrade Center in St. Louis for practice. However, we’ll have to wait another day before we get a clear answer because Harding and Granlund were both absent from today’s skate.
Harding returned to Minnesota for an MRI, but it came up negative. After practice, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Harding has another doctor’s appointment, and his availability for tomorrow’s game will be based on that evaluation and his pain tolerance. If Harding can’t go, Darcy Kuemper, who practiced with the team today, will backup Niklas Backstrom.
Granlund also was out today, but Yeo is hopeful the forward will be able to go tomorrow.
If both Granlund and Harding are out tomorrow, the Wild has a couple of options. The club could dress seven defensemen again, or could suit up forward Mike Rupp, who is in Iowa on a conditioning stint. Yeo said that Rupp is rejoining the team and if he plays, the team would retroactively place forward Torrey Mitchell on Injured Reserve. If Harding can back up, the Wild can recall a forward from Iowa.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon was held out of practice today for maintenance, but Yeo expects him to be in the lineup tomorrow.
Regardless of who is in the lineup, tomorrow’s game will be a challenge for Minnesota against a tough St. Louis squad. The Blues have one of the National Hockey League’s stoutest defensive units and a lot of size up front.
“I would say their defensive squad is about as good as you can find in the league; the way they skate, they’re big, they’re strong and the way they move the puck, they definitely help their forwards get to their game,” Yeo said. “And their forwards obviously have an identity with the way they play.”
The Wild is a mere point behind St. Louis in the standings. Just over a quarter of the way through the season, it will be one of the team’s biggest confrontations on the road to date.
“They’re one of the top teams in the league, so you know going into their building it’s a big challenge and a test to our team,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “They’ve been great at home, so it’s going to be a battle. We have to be ready for a tight, hard game.”
The Wild’s battle against St. Louis will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network at 7 p.m. State of Hockey Time.