Already heavy underdogs against the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, the No. 8 Minnesota Wild were dealt a critical blow before Tuesday night's Western Conference quarterfinals matchup—and in pregame warm-ups, no less.
UPDATE: Saturday, Apr. 30, at 11: 55 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford
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There is no word on the extent of Backstrom’s injury or whether he’ll be available as a backup on Tuesday or going forward. The video of the injury (embedded below) shows Backstrom going for a routine rebound attempt and instantly shaking off pain in his left leg.
Though it’s unclear whether this injury will last past Game 1, it’s obvious Minnesota will want its top goalie back in net as soon as possible.
The 35-year-old Backstrom is coming off another stellar season for the Wild, his seventh overall with the club. Backstrom had a 24-15-3 record for the season and a 2.48 goals-against average. More than anything, he was a bastion of consistency, the nightly fixture in a Minnesota lineup that saw its share of injuries during this lockout-shortened season.
Backup goalie Josh Harding, who got the nod in place of Backstrom, had just five appearances heading into Tuesday night. The 28-year-old Harding was only intermittently effective in those outings, finishing the year with a 1-1 record and 3.24 goals-against average.
Minnesota’s lack of top-flight backup makes Backstrom’s injury a looming storyline heading into this quarterfinal series. The Wild were already at a disadvantage against Chicago, a team that spent its entire season dominating all comers. The Blackhawks were the best team during the NHL regular season, finishing with a league-high 77 points and tying the Pittsburgh Penguins with 36 wins.
Meanwhile, Minnesota barely snuck into the No. 8 seed out West. The Wild tied with Columbus with 55 points in the standings, but were able to make the playoffs with a 3-1 win over the Avalanche on Saturday, giving them 26 for the season. This year marks the first time in five years Minnesota has made the playoffs.
There is no doubt the team will anxiously await word on the severity of Backstrom’s injury, as a long-term ailment could spell an early end to the Wild’s triumph.