Wild will give Harding 3rd straight start in goal

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 03, 2011
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By DAVE CAMPBELL AP Sports Writer Eleven games into his first season as head coach of the Minnesota Wild, Mike Yeo has a problem. But it's a good one. Both of his goalies are playing well. So while Yeo's choice to start Josh Harding again over Niklas Backstrom in Thursday's game against Vancouver was not made without hesitation, he expressed confidence in either option. ''Can we keep that a surprise for everybody?'' Yeo said after Wednesday's practice, first pretending he preferred not to announce which goaltender will face the Canucks before confirming Harding will start his third straight game. ''It's not that easy, because I think Back has played great hockey for us, too, and I don't think we can forget about that,'' Yeo said. ''But at the same time I think you have to go with Hards in that situation because he's played two great games. You have to reward him, for one, and, two, when a goalie's feeling that and he's playing like that then give him a chance.'' The Wild are allowing 2.09 goals per game this season, fourth best in the NHL. Though young defensemen like Justin Falk, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon have performed beyond their experience level and contributed to the stingy scoring-against average, Backstrom and Harding have been the stalwarts behind it. Backstrom has had a few substandard games out of the eight he's played in, but he's still the starter with an All-Star game appearance on his resume and a 144-94 record. Harding has worked his way back on the radar, however. After tearing two ligaments in his right knee during an exhibition game, Harding needed reconstructive surgery and missed the entire 2010-11 season. That's a debilitating injury for a goalie, given the strain they put on their joints in games and practice. Harding wondered whether his career was over and didn't assume the Wild would bring him back. They did, on a one-year, $750,000 contract, and their faith has been rewarded. After making 38 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Oct. 15, his first on-ice action in more than a year, Harding beat the Red Wings 1-0 last Saturday - and then again on Tuesday, 2-1 in overtime. ''Now that he's played three in a row I think that he should feel real confident going into the nets,'' Yeo said. ''He's got a lot in the bank. Let's put it that way.'' His save percentage is .965, his goals-against average is 1.30 and his knee is 100 percent. ''I know how lucky I am to be playing this sport,'' Harding said. He said he was anxious last March when he first tested his knee by making some game-like saves in practice. ''I didn't know what to expect. It was a pretty slow butterfly. I think a 4-year-old's shot could've beat me,'' Harding said. Now those nerves are behind him. Yeo is the one under scrutiny now, determining how long to ride Harding's hot streak without keeping Backstrom on the bench too long. ''We're spending a lot of time talking about it like we have a goalie controversy or something right now, but to me it's just a guy who has an opportunity to go out and get the net again tomorrow,'' Yeo said. ''We go day by day here.'' As does Harding. ''It's only three games. Three games doesn't make a whole year, and I know that there's still a whole lot of work left to be done,'' Harding said. --- Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best and worst from NBA All-Star Saturday night

WATCH: Klay Thompson can't go home unless he beats Steph Curry in 3-Point contest

Star players are hurting Houston Rockets

Emmitt Smith: Adrian Peterson only current player who could break rushing record

Coach K gets buzzer-beater win over Virginia for his birthday

Baylor approves new measures to deal with sexual assault


Joe Mauer: Concussions blurred vision, affected hitting

LeBron James says Kevin Love-Celtics trade rumor is false

Michael Jordan gifts Kobe Bryant full set of Air Jordans

Bethune-Cookman football player killed at party

Former UFC heavyweight Kevin Randleman dead at 44

WATCH: Chelsea scores three goals in less than 20 minutes

LaVine, Gordon put on best NBA dunk contest in years

WATCH: Thompson beats teammate Curry in 3-point contest

NFL teams, players hand out awesome Valentines

Earl Campbell ‘disappointed’ in Johnny Manziel, wants to help

Big man Karl-Anthony Towns wins NBA skills challenge

MLB commish: Cubs will host All-Star Game in near future

WATCH: Memphis forward recreates Vince Carter's elbow dunk in game

Bruins forward is goal scoring machine after suspension

Michael Jordan gives Kobe Bryant complete set of Air Jordans

Drake has Kentucky edition of custom ‘OVO’ Air Jordan 8s

QUIZ: Name every NBA All-Star Game MVP

Watch rare footage of Stephen Curry from 2001-02 emerges

Check out this custom camouflage Oregon helmet

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker