Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Niklas Backstrom to start for Minnesota Wild as Josh Harding feels ill

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Harding has been among the top netminders in the NHL all season long, but tonight he’ll be on the bench as Niklas Backstrom will start for the  Minnesota Wild as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Harding is reportedly feeling a bit sick, which will give Backstrom his first start since October 28.

The Wild have been among the hottest teams in the NHL recently, and has jumped on Harding’s back as he’s lead them to a 10-4-4 record. Minnesota didn’t start off well, but they have six wins in their last eight tries and have climbed to fourth in the Central Division.

Backstrom came into the season as the No. 1, but Harding’s elite play has forced the Wild to play him. No goaltender in the NHL has a better GAA than Harding, and his .947 save percentage trails only Tuukka Rask’s .948. While it’s unclear how long the typical No. 2 can continue to play at this level, Minnesota has shown willingness to play it out.

That’s forced Backstrom to the bench lately, but he’ll get the nod against the Leafs tonight. Toronto is the 11th most proficient offensive team in the league, so he shouldn’t be under siege. Backstrom will still need to make several key stops though as the Leafs

Tags: Josh Harding Minnesota Wild NHL Niklas Backstrom

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