Wild routed by Red Wings

DETROIT — On a delayed penalty in the first period Friday night, Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding tried to hustle to the bench for an extra attacker and couldn't make the top of the faceoff circles.

In the second period, every time Harding dropped into his butterfly, he virtually needed a forklift to hoist him up.

Harding's hip injury, ongoing throughout the second half of the season and aggravated a week ago, had struck yet again.

But in a painful display to watch, Harding refused to pull himself and coach Todd Richards let him play through the pain for two periods until Harding finally said he could go no more during the Red Wings' 6-2 trouncing at Joe Louis Arena.

"I tried to play as long as I could, and obviously it got worse and worse," Harding said. "From warmup, from the pregame skate, it didn't feel good. I was just hoping it would get better, but it didn't."


Mercifully, Niklas Backstrom, who's dealing with a groin injury of his own and played the night before in Philadelphia, replaced Harding to start the third period after the Wild surrendered four goals in the second.

Asked why he just didn't let Backstrom start the game, Harding said, "Never. Never. Backy played last night. He did an awesome job. I feel terrible right now that he had to play the third period. It's not a good feeling when you throw your goalie partner to the wolves."

Still, there are no purple hearts awarded in hockey, and one now has to wonder the extent of Harding's injury. Last April, Backstrom underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.

Asked if he knows what's wrong with his hip, Harding said, "Uhhh." Asked if it's his labrum, Harding said, "No comment."

Richards said the decision to play is the player's.

"We talked with him before the game started, and he said he was good to go, so you have to trust your guys," Richards said. "You ask questions, and they know their bodies best."

But still, it was visible throughout that Harding was laboring. Asked if then he has to make the decision for Harding, Richards said, "Nothing was told to me. Again as a coach, you have to assume everything's OK until something is said."

Johan Franzen scored two goals and two assists for his first career four-point night. Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Jonathan Ericsson each had a goal and an assist, and Nicklas Lidstrom and Jason Williams had two assists apiece. The Wild fell to 1-7 in its past eight visits to Detroit and 4-13-1 all-time (outscored 71-40).


It didn't help Harding's cause when the Wild took three minor penalties in the first 11½ minutes and five through 24. The Wild's penalty killing units extinguished the first four, but it meant Harding was hard at work and constantly falling on his battered hip.

After a scoreless first period, the Red Wings broke it open. Moments after Harding could barely get up after a scramble, Franzen drew Harding out of his net and forced him to commit. Harding fell, couldn't move and Franzen shot it behind them.

Then, on a power play, Lidstrom fired a shot 2 feet wide that Holmstrom masterfully redirected for a 2-0 lead. The Wild wasted two chances to trim the deficit in half: Antti Miettinen fired high on a breakaway and a blown 44-second 5-on-3, and finally the Wild gave up a league-leading 11th shorthanded goal.

Now the question is whether we see Harding again this season?

"He's been battling with that problem all year," said defenseman Greg Zanon, himself playing on a broken ankle. "He's sticking it in there for the team. It shows what kind of team guy he is, character guy. I think now he realizes that maybe he's hurt himself a little bit more ... by competing for us.

"It's sad to see."

More bruises

—Winger Chuck Kobasew left the game in the second period and didn't return with what Richards called a "tweaked knee." It's unclear if it's the left knee that Kobasew sprained in December. After scoring two goals last Sunday against Calgary, Kobasew admitted that knee was still giving him trouble. ...


—Defenseman Justin Falk, who got his bell rung in his NHL debut last Friday in Columbus, returned to the lineup in place of Cam Barker, who injured his ankle in Philadelphia. Falk logged 7:11 of ice time. ...

—Mikko Koivu (arm) is hoping to return Monday against Los Angeles. ...

—Center Cody Almond was returned to AHL Houston.

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