Hockey / Sports

Injuries cloud Wild's goaltender situation

CHICAGO -- Last season, the Minnesota Wild were struggling with injuries to their goaltenders in their first-round playoff series against the Blackhawks.

A year later, little has changed.

Darcy Kuemper suffered an upper-body injury Wednesday in the Wild's Game 7 victory over the Avalanche. That meant oft-criticized Ilya Bryzgalov had to hold the fort as the Wild won in overtime. According to the Wild's official Twitter feed, Bryzgalov is expected to start Game 1 on Friday.

In three playoff games, Bryzgalov, 33, has a 4.25 goals-against average. His 2.68 average in the regular season ranked 34th in the league.

The Hawks are trying not to salivate.

"Maybe in the regular season, if there's a young goalie you've never heard of who's just getting started in the league, you might think differently as a shooter," winger Patrick Sharp said. "But at this time, in this season, playing against a team like the Wild, it doesn't matter who's in there, you're going to play the same way."

Last season, Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was injured during warm-ups before Game 1 against the Hawks. Backup Josh Harding played the entire series.

Backstrom is out for this season because of an abdominal injury. Harding, who has not played since Dec. 31, is unlikely to take the ice as he deals with complications related to multiple sclerosis. And now the status of Kuemper, who took over for a struggling Bryzgalov in Game 2 against the Avalanche, is in doubt for the series.

"I even heard a couple of our players joking about (the goaltender situation)," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It's been ongoing ... not just this year, but it's something we've had to deal with the last couple years."

Winger Jason Zucker is also out for the season because of a quadriceps injury.

Toews ailing: Captain Jonathan Toews was the one Hawk not to practice Thursday morning at the United Center because of an illness, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Joakim Nordstrom took Toews' place on the top line, with Toews' absence a precaution and no cause for alarm.

"He'll be more than fine (for Game 1)," Quenneville said.

Quick turnaround: Yeo said he got about three hours of sleep before his team left Denver for Chicago. There isn't much time for him to scout the Hawks, but fortunately for him, not much is needed.

"There's not going to be an incredible amount of secrets," Yeo said. "I made a couple phone calls, but looking at the video ... a big part of why they're successful is they know their game well, they play their game well."

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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