Backstrom practices Wednesday, is Harding pushing for starting spot?


Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom has missed the team's last four games after injuring his knee against Nashville last Tuesday, a game the Wild almost came back to win.

Minnesota is giving Backstrom all the time he needs to get healthy after his injury, and according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, its paying off.

Part of the reason the Wild can be so relaxed with Backstrom's comeback is the play of Josh Harding, who has won three of the four games since Backstrom's injury, while also performing well in relief duty of Backstrom last Tuesday and Darcy Kuemper last night.

With how good Harding has been in Backstrom's absence, is a goalie controversy brewing? Here's a quick look at their recent career numbers.

2009-10: Backstrom started 60 games for Minnesota, winning 26 while putting up a .903 save percentage and 2.72 goals against average. Harding started the remaining 22 games, posting a superior .905 save percentage, but a brutal 3.05 goals against average.

2010-11: Backstrom started 51 games, winning just 22, while posting an improved .916 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average. Harding missed the entire year after tearing his ACL and MCL.

2011-12: Backstrom started 46 games, going 19-18 while once again besting his previous year's stats with a .919 save percentage and 2.43 goals against. Harding returned to start 30 games, rivaling Backstrom's numbers with a .917 save percentage and 2.62 goals against.

2012-13: In the shortened, 48 game season, Backstrom appeared in 42 games, putting up a 2.48 goals against and .909 save percentage. Harding played in just five games while battling his MS diagnosis.

Backstrom hasn't ranked in the top half in goals against among starters since 2008-09, and has ranked 20th or worse three of those four seasons.

While history is still on Backstrom's side based on the opportunities he's been given and longevity in the league, it is at the very least a big positive for the Wild to have goaltender with the skill of Harding behind him, playing at the level he is now.

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