Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding (37) deflects a shot by the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of an NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Josh Harding has been perhaps the feel-good story of the NHL season, putting up numbers unmatched for a goalie after revealing that he has multiple sclerosis.
The Minnesota Wild goalie was placed on injured reserve Wednesday night to give him time to make adjustments to medication, and the team is confident he will return in top form.
"Over the next week, Josh will make a minor adjustment to his treatment protocol," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said in a statement issued by the team. "Josh feels great and he looks forward to rejoining our team for our game in Winnipeg on Dec. 27."
That Fletcher put an exact timeline on Harding's return is encouraging for a team that has leaned heavily on him to keep them in the playoff picture in the demanding Western Conference. Harding revealed this summer that he had been diagnosed with MS, but planned to continue playing while getting taking medication.
There were plenty of skeptics. But after starting the season as the backup to Niklas Backstrom, Harding asserted himself as the Wild's unquestioned No. 1 goalie. He's gone 18-5-3 and leads the NHL with a 1.51 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. He is fresh off making 29 saves and stopping all three shootout attempts by Vancouver in Minnesota's 3-2 victory over the Canucks on Tuesday night.
Harding will have to miss at least a week while on injured reserve. That means he will be out at least three games. Backstrom, who is 2-5-2 with a 2.93 goals-against average, will carry the load while Harding is way.
Johan Gustafsson has been recalled from Iowa of the AHL to take Harding's spot and could see some action if Harding winds up missing more time than initially expected.