Dave Bolland and Ray Emery are out tonight for Chicago, and Josh Harding is starting in net for Minnesota as the Blackhawks host the Wild in Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series tonight at the United Center.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Bolland and Emery will miss another game but that both are “very close.” Bolland said his groin injury is “coming along.”
Asked if he could put a percentage on how close he is, Bolland said, “I don’t know about the percentage but I’m halfway there.”
Whether or not Bolland intended to give a Yogi Berra-ism isn’t known. What is known is that this would be the type of series the center would love: grinding, gritty and a little scrappy. But for him, it’s about achieving optimum health in a season that’s lacked it.
“I’m champing at the bit. You think about it whenever you have a little free time or you’re just sitting around. But you want to be 100 percent,” he said. “When you see those high-intensity games, you want to be out there crashing and banging.”
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The Blackhawks know the Wild, sitting on the brink of elimination, will be throwing everything at them. Coach Joel Quenneville said it should be a tough contest.
“I expect a hard game, both teams will be ready,” he said. “We’re worried about ourselves. Our last game was closer to the level we want to get to. But we still want to make sure we know there’s another level we can get to.”
Meanwhile, the Wild’s goaltending situation remains hampered by leg/groin/unspecified injuries. Harding was injured late in the first period of Game 4 and did not return to start the second. Darcy Kuemper finished that game with usual starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom, out since Game 1 warmups, backing him up. Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter Michael Russo tweeted that Harding was laboring during morning skate drills, and that Backstrom also appeared to be struggling. But Harding got the final nod.
As far as what he was looking for in determining Harding if could start tonight, Yeo said, “to see him obviously go out there and be able to make saves, and more importantly to come to us and say he’s ready. We don’t know how he feels, but you have to trust him. He says that he’s good to go, and there’s absolutely no doubt about it. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Now the Wild face another daunting task, trying to force this series to a Game 6.
“We do have to look at just as far as the bigger picture, that we know we’re going to play a team that’s desperate and wants to finish this tonight,” Yeo said. “On our side of things, we feel if we can win this game, obviously we’d still be behind but some of that pressure would shift. That said, for that to happen, we need a pretty good focus.”