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Ailing Harding gets the start for Wild in Game 5 vs. Blackhawks

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Josh Harding will start in goal for the Minnesota Wild in Game 5 tonight at the United Center. Whether he's really ready to go or not after suffering an injury in Game 4, well, that's anybody's guess.

Wild coach Mike Yeo is going on faith.

"We don't know how he feels," Yeo said after an eventful morning skate. "But you have to trust him. And he says that he's good to go, and there was absolutely no doubt about it, so that's what we were looking for."

Harding, injured in the first period of Game 4 when Jonathan Toews ran into him on a rush, was slow to get up after many saves during the morning skate. Yeo and goaltending coach Bob Mason had lengthy conversations together and with Harding and Niklas Backstrom, who was injured in warmups before Game 1.

"You don't know what we were talking about; might have been talking about what we're having for lunch today," Yeo said with a sly smile. "This is what we've been dealt. We were able to figure it out, now we should be able to push all that stuff behind us. Bottom line is we've got 20 guys going into the lineup. No excuses on our part. You're in the lineup, you're there for a reason, and we've got a group that's capable -- more than capable -- of winning this game tonight."

Shortly after the skate ended, even the Wild players were in the dark.

"Honestly I don't know who's playing tonight," Zach Parise said. "They all give us a chance to win, regardless of who's starting."

Yeo said Darcy Kuemper -- an AHL call-up who replaced Harding for the second and third periods in Game 4 -- will be Harding's backup tonight.

"I don't think it matters," captain Mikko Koivu said. "We have three good goaltenders here and as players you just prepare the game the way you always [do]. I don't think it matters for us players who's between the pipes. Every single night they give us a chance to win the hockey game.:

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Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.

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