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Niklas Backstrom injured in warm-ups; Josh Harding starts Game 1 for Wild with no backup

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs already have a stunning development before the first puck was even dropped.

The Minnesota Wild lost starting goalie Niklas Backstrom to an injury in warm-ups on Tuesday night, as he prepared to face the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.

Here's the injury:

Most would have agreed that, for the Wild to win this series, Backstrom was going to have to stand on his head. That's tough to do when you're sitting.

This means that Josh Harding, already the front-runner for the Masterton for his determination after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, draws in. An incredible story just became even moreso.

Via Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, it's Harding or bust:

There is no backup behind Harding. For some reason, the Wild doesn't have Darcy Kuemper here even though Houston doesn't have a playoff game tonight and they're in nearby Grand Rapids.

Pierre McGuire on NBC theorized that Wild goalie coach Bob Mason might be the emergency backup for Minnesota. He appeared in five Stanley Cup playoff games and posted a 2-3 record and a 1.95 GAA with Washington and Chicago. He's also 50 years old.

(Where are you, Paul Deutsch?)

Harding hasn't seen much action this season. Harding has just one win in 2013, and he's only appeared in 5 games. His last start was January 30th, versus these very same Blackhawks, and it didn't go well. He was pulled after 6:45 of ice time, having allowed 2 goals on 4 shots. In his last appearance of the season, when he drew in to relieve Backstrom versus the Edmonton Oilers, Harding was shelled for 3 goals on 12 shots.

But that was then. The Wild need Harding to step up now. If he can, this could be one incredible hockey fable.

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