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NHL Carolina HurricanesMinnesota Wild

Minnesota Wild: Josh Harding Can Make Statement With Win Over Carolina Hurricanes

Josh Harding Minnesota Wild

Kevin Hoffman – USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild have been without starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom for most of the 2013-14 season, but so far that hasn’t been a problem. Backup netminder Josh Harding is off to a great start, with a 4-2-1 record and a 0.960 goals-against average that is second-best in the entire league. Harding and the Wild will be tested on Thursday night by a Carolina Hurricanes team that has won three consecutive road games and four straight against Minnesota, and the Wild have a chance to make a huge statement while getting a much-needed win.

Wild head coach Mike Yeo will continue to look to youth to help out his team, as Justin Fontaine will play on the top line alongside Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, while young defenseman Mathew Dumba will fill in for injured sophomore blueliner Jonas Brodin. Harding was stellar in a 2-0 shutout win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, which was a great bounce-back after dropping three games in a row. Six of the Wild’s games this season have been decided by one-goal margins, and the offense can do a lot to help Harding out by finding the back of the net more often.

The Hurricanes have won two in a row, and goaltender Cam Ward has helped the team earn at least a point in four of their last five outings. Thursday’s game should be a great battle between two teams who don’t see their paths cross very often, and two goaltenders who are trying to show they’re not just off to fluke good starts.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.