The Minnesota Wild announced today that goaltender Josh Harding will be placed on injured reserve. The move was made to allow Harding some time to adjust his treatment and medication in his on-going battle with Multiple Sclerosis. You can read the full press release here.
While this may seem to drop the table out from underneath Wild fans, in all actuality this is a very smart move by Harding and the Wild. In follow up comments to Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo and Pioneer Press beat writer Chad Graff, Fletcher stated that the timing of this did not come as a surprise to the Wild, and that Fletcher has "been talking about this with Josh for awhile."
As with any chronic illness treatment, the risk the Wild run with waiting too long for Harding to adjust his medication is that the "new" treatment could no longer be effective. If the treatment isn't working, and it's not adjusted properly, it could become a much bigger story than Harding missing a few games and being placed on IR. By putting him on IR now, they are allowing Harding approximately nine days to work with his doctors at home, and not feel any pressure to push himself back too early.
This move does, at least temporarily, push goaltender Niklas Backstrom back into starting position. Backstrom has had a less than stellar season so far, but honestly is laying on a double edged sword. Harding has been playing fantastic, and completely earned the starting spot. Backstrom is getting fewer and fewer starts, which leaves him a bit rusty. When you go on vacation for a week or two, how long does it take you to get back into the swing of things when you return?
This will ultimately end up being a true test for the Wild. Harding cannot carry the team forever, and at some point the rest of the squad need to step up and score more to relive some pressure off the goaltender. The defense will need to tighten up, especially Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin who have struggled (at least struggled compared to their typical play) lately.
We'll bring you any more news as we hear it.