Minnesota Wild Find Themselves Against a Wall, Without a Reliable One in Net

Tim MeehanCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2011

Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom
Wild goalie Niklas BackstromBruce Bennett/Getty Images

Coming into the 2010-11 NHL season there was a lot of uncertainty on the Minnesota Wild roster.

The one spot that there was none, though, was at the goalkeeper position. 

With Niklas Backstrom in net, the Wild had a goalie who was expected to make at least 60 starts in net. That left 22 games to the wily veteran Jose Theodore, whom the Wild signed after backup goalie Josh Harding was injured on Sept. 25 in a preseason game, tearing his ACL and MCL and having what was very expected to be season ending injury.

How things can change over the course of a month.

Backstrom has been out since Jan. 8 (officially, though he hasn't played since Dec. 31). Theodore was looking to be the Wild's new iron-man goalie, winning four straight in relief of Backstrom from Jan. 2 until Jan. 8. And that night, one when he made 26 saves and shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins, is when things became a little less clear.

On the flight from Pittsburgh to Minnesota following that game, coach Todd Richards asked Theodore how he was feeling and whether he was able to go the following night back in Minnesota against the Dallas Stars.

Normally goalies don't play on back-to-back nights, in hopes it will keep them fresh for the final grind of the season. However, Theodore said he was feeling good and ready to play. Even though he had already told trainers of a slight twinge he felt in his groin. 

Theodore, who only gave up two goals in his previous three starts, proceeded to give up four to the Stars. Then, a mere two days later, he gave up five goals to the Nashville Predators.

That brings us to tonight. With Anton Khudobin in net for the Wild. Add to that rookie goaltender Matt Hackett is now up from the Wild's AHL affiliate Houston Aeros, and the next couple weeks could be very, very interesting for a team that had positioned itself nicely to get into the playoff picture.

Khudobin has been very solid for Minnesota in very limited action, having a career three games played in the NHL while posting a .962 save percentage and 1.52 goals-against average.

But this is not the same Minnesota team that Khudobin played in front of last season. This year's version of the Wild has been outshot nearly every game. This version has had trouble playing in its own zone and has flat-out not looked very good. It has been the great play of Backstrom and Theodore that has this team winning.

Many people see this as a bad sign for the Wild, having two rookie goaltenders on the roster, except people seem to forget that the Wild have a pretty good history of always having very capable goalies in the waiting. From Manny Fernandez to Dwayne Roloson, back to Fernandez and then on to Backstrom and Harding, it has always seemed that the Wild have had very capable netminders ready to go.

And I don't expect Khudobin to be any different.