Big news broke across the Minnesota Twitter-verse this morning. Injured skaters Zach Parise (concussion) and Jared Spurgeon (shoulder) are participating in this morning's team practice.
Parise, Spurgeon & Harding are all on the ice for #mnwild this morning.— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) November 10, 2014
This couldn't come at a better time with the Minnesota Wild in the midst of a three-game slump. However, perhaps the most intriguing news worth mentioning is the return of netminder Josh Harding (foot) to regular practice.
Harding had a good few weeks of informal scrimmages prior to the start of training camp, and looked poised for a really solid campaign. Then, an off-ice altercation with a teammate caused the spirited goaltender to lose his cool, and he found himself sitting on the shelf with a fractured foot after kicking a wall in frustration. Recovering from a freak injury like that is going to be difficult to matter the situation, but it's even more so in Harding's case.
First off, the 2002 38th overall pick has an unfortunate history of injuries. Every time he's set to make the next big step in his career, something happens. Then there's his Multiple Sclerosis. It caused him to miss all but five regular season games and the playoffs in 2012-13, then he dominated the league the following year before not playing a single game when the calendar hit 2014. The foot injury is a major setback, but the Wild brass and fan base are waiting with baited breath in the hope that the other shoe won't drop, too. It will at some point, unfortunately.
And that makes things interesting for Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher. In order to be successful, he has to have two healthy NHL-caliber netminders. For now, it appears he's well on his way to three. However, it's looking very unlikely Darcy Kuemper will ever see the AHL again. Then there's the fact that longtime franchise goaltender Niklas Backstrom hasn't been the most consistent, has an injury history of his own and continues to age. But Harding is a real wild card here. When he's healthy, he's great (at least, that's what we've seen in recent years), but he's rarely healthy and may not be able to perform if/when Fletcher decides to move a goaltender. Still, Fletcher has said it before, and I think he means it - he's not afraid to roll with three goaltenders on the roster.
We're still a ways away from Harding making his return. He'll need regular practice time and an extensive conditioning stint in Iowa before he's anywhere near ready. In the meantime, we'll settle for the impending return of a top line left winger and a top-3 defenseman. That can't come too soon for this struggling team.