Back in November, Josh Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, the Minnesota goaltender has only laced up his skates in a total of five games. Although the disease kept him from seeing more ice time, Harding said he wouldn't let it ail his perseverance and determination.
On Tuesday, he proved that.
Half way through warmups at Game 1 inside the United Center, starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom left the ice with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. The only other option in net for the Wild was Harding, who had played just once since early February.
But despite the lack of playing time, he was ready to go.
"I saw [Backstrom] come out of the net, and you just go," Harding explained following his team's 2-1 overtime loss. "There's no on or off switch. You go do the job the team expects you to do."
[More: Bickell wins it in overtime for Blackhawks]
Inside Minnesota's locker room, Harding was asked about his emotions, his disease and what he did to prepare. But that's not what he wanted to talk about, because for him, tonight's game wasn't about his emotions, his disease or his personal routine. It was about the Wild as a whole and how they can rebound from Tuesday's game.
"I prepared like I should have," Harding said after being asked about his game-time adjustments. "We definitely put up a fight tonight and we're gonna come back and put the work boots on tomorrow and get better tomorrow."
The Wild are down 1-0 in the series against the Blackhawks, but Tuesday's matchup showed this team won't go without a fight. Even after being thrown a curveball just minutes before the game, the Wild held the lead into the second period and forced the game into overtime.
[More: Crawford's huge save keeps Blackhawks alive in OT]
Whether the Blackhawks will face Backstrom in the series remains unclear, but for now, the Wild have plenty of confidence in Harding.
"You have to applaud the way Josh came in and in a tough situation, played the way he did," Minnesota forward Kyle Brodziak said. "Everybody who's been here for a while knows [Harding's] capabilities and you saw it tonight, he's a strong, confident goaltender who's big in there. We're confident with whoever's in the net for us."
But it wasn't just the Wild that had positive things to say regarding their goaltender. The Blackhawks, too, tipped their hat to Harding.
"Of course (we're impressed)," center Jonathan Toews said. "Everyone knows his story this year and he’s one of those guys, I’m sure, who wants to step up in the playoffs. He played a heck of a game, considering that, tonight. We can expect the same thing from him next game. We want to get on him more and make his job tougher than tonight."