CHICAGO – The Blackhawks’ first surprise of the playoffs arrived about a half-hour before Tuesday’s opening faceoff against the Minnesota Wild.
It turned out that Josh Harding, not Niklas Backstrom, would oppose the Hawks in net.
Backstrom was injured during pregame warmups and needed help heading off of the ice. The 35-year-old goaltender from Finland was expected to be the full-time starter for the Wild during the playoffs after appearing in 42 of 48 games during the regular season.
Instead, Harding stepped in for Backstrom for the remainder of pregame warmups, and he was announced as the starter about 10 minutes before the start of the game. Harding appeared in only five games during the regular season, posting a 1-1 record with a 3.24 goals-against average and a .863 save percentage.
Because of Backstrom’s injury, the Wild played the game without a backup goaltender.
Roster squeeze: Hawks coach Joel Quenneville faced several tough decisions about which veterans would watch Game 1 as healthy scratches.
Those who did not play included Daniel Carcillo, Sheldon Brookbank and Jamal Mayers. Center Dave Bolland and goaltender Ray Emery also sat out because of injuries.
Brookbank’s benching meant that veteran Michal Rozsival skated in his 53rd career playoff game and his first as a member of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Carcillo and Mayers sat out while second-year enforcer Brandon Bollig appeared in his fifth career playoff game.
Hawks bits: The Hawks have a 12-13 all-time series record in the first round of the playoffs. … Before Tuesday, the Wild had not appeared in the playoffs for five years.