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Wild expect Josh Harding to be available in time for training camp

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy
NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Minnesota Wild
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Dec 17, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding (37) against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Canucks 3-2 in a shootout. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Josh Harding last played for the Minnesota Wild on New Year's Eve, tending goal in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues before stepping away from the team due to symptoms related to his multiple sclerosis. While he returned to practice in the postseason, he never progressed beyond skating with his teammates.

But according to GM Chuck Fletcher, the Wild are confident that Harding will be available for training camp. From NHL.com:

"I think his battles are well chronicled and well known. I think he's feeling well at this point in time," Fletcher said. "The goal for him is, much like last summer, to build up and get to a point where he'll be able to come into training camp and play well. There's been nothing that I've heard of to lead me to not believe that to be the case."

[...] "His rehab has gone really well. He's feeling better now than he did at any point last season, including training camp," Fletcher said of Backstrom. "We expect he'll be able to go full out, full pads by late July or early August, leaving him plenty of time to be ready for training camp. He's in a really good spot right now."

The Wild will be happy to have Harding back. In the first half of the season, before he had to step away, the netminder was in the early-season running for a major award, and not just another Masterton, but the Vezina. The loss to the Blues was just his seventh, as he'd gone 18-7-3 up to that point, with a save percentage of .933 and a goals against average of 1.66.

Worse, Harding's absence kicked off a whirlwind of problems in goal for the Wild, who couldn't seem to keep anyone else around, either. Both Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom, who won his job back after Harding left, missed time with injury, necessitating a move for Ilya Bryzgalov as a stopgap.

Bryz likely won't be back. The other two, on the other hand, will. And if Harding plays the way he can, and the way he was before the illness he's been beating down beat back, they'll be competing for the backup role.

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