The Minnesota Wild will turn back to goaltender Niklas Backstrom tonight, and hope he can build on a two-game winning streak during which he has only allowed two goals on 50 shots. After rookie netminder Darcy Kuemper took the hard-luck 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in his NHL debut Tuesday, it will be Backstrom’s turn again between the pipes.
The solid play of Kuemper was a welcome sign for a team that found out Josh Harding won’t be available for the near future after telling the team he is dealing with complications from his multiple sclerosis medication. Kuemper gives the Wild an option for Backstrom getting the occasional night off without sacrificing the chance to stay competitive.
The Wild penalty kill was perfect in both of Backstrom’s recent wins, a 2-1 overtime triumph over the Nashville Predators and a 2-1 shootout win over the Calgary Flames. Backstrom’s season record has improved to 5-4-1 with a 2.45 goals against average, helping the Wild stay tight with the Edmonton Oilers in the battle for second place in the Northwest Division and just out of reach of the final playoff spot.
Backstrom will face off tonight against a struggling Colorado Avalanche team that ranks ahead of just two teams (the Predators and the Wild) in goals per game. If the offensive stars on Minnesota’s roster (Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise) can get things going at the other end, this should be a good chance for Backstrom to extend his streak and the Wild to jump past the idle Oilers in the standings. Even if this one stays low-scoring, expect Backstrom to give his team a chance to capture at least one point from tonight’s game.