Matt Hackett was reassigned to the Houston Aeros today, so that means the Wild will dress both Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom tonight as Minnesota hosts the Vancouver Canucks. Harding will get the start for the first time since a lower body tweak against Phoenix on March 8. Backstrom will dress for the first time since a March 1 groin strain against Montreal.
After today’s optional morning skate, Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Backstrom is ready to go if need be and wouldn’t dress a goalie that is unable to perform. But, Harding will get the nod and has played well against Vancouver this season, going 1-1-0 with 1.52 goals against average and a .949 save percentage.
With the plethora of injuries the Wild has suffered, it’s an added boost any time one of their teammates gets back into the lineup. To shoot on both Harding and Backstrom during warm ups undoubtedly will be a welcome sight for the players.
Mikko Koivu is not quite ready, but “very close” according to Yeo. The Wild bench boss said he is looking better each time he’s on the ice.
The Wild also reassigned Nick Palmieri yesterday, so Matt Kassian will return to the lineup. Kassian will be a welcome sight, as well. In the five games between the Wild and Canucks this season, the teams have racked up 185 penalty minutes between them. Expect Kassian to have an impact on this game with his physical play and keep Vancouver in line in case any of them are acting like knuckleheads.
Finally, as much as it pains me to mention this, congratulations to the University of North Dakota for winning the WCHA Final Five over the weekend. UND went through St. Cloud State, the University of Minnesota and Denver on its way to the Broadmoor Trophy. No easy task.