Wild coach Todd Richards won't call it a goalie "tandem," but it's clear there is competition for ice time.
By KENT YOUNGBLOOD, Star Tribune
Last update: December 14, 2010 - 11:01 PM
"We have not," he said. "We'll make that decision [Wednesday]."
Is this proof the Wild has gone to a goaltending tandem? Richards wouldn't describe it as such. But it's clear that some recent missteps by Niklas Backstrom combined with the strong play of José Theodore has turned this into a job-share situation.
"Right now we take it game-by-game," Richards said. "If one of them steps up to the forefront, and can run with the ball, that's what we'll do. Theo's been pretty good, as far as consistency. Back had a really good game in Phoenix [on Thursday]. ... We didn't help [Backstrom] out in Anaheim [in a 6-2 loss Sunday]. He also needed to be sharper."
Backstrom started the season on fire, his play keeping the Wild in games night after night. He had a difficult three-game stretch in late November in losses to the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche in which he allowed five, six and seven goals, respectively. Theodore, meanwhile, has played steadily, going 4-4-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. Backstrom is 9-8-3 with a 2.75 GAA and the identical .914 save percentage.
"Theo has come in and done a good job," Richards said. "He really has. To me, Theo has earned some playing time, which is what you want from everyone."
Backstrom did not appear bothered by the development, saying all he could do is play his best and leave playing-time decisions to the coaches.
"I feel good," he said. "There were a couple [difficult] games. Other than that, the way I've been playing, I think it's been the best start I've ever had to a season. I feel comfortable out there."