As Josh Harding’s backup goaltender Niklas Backstrom is expected to return to the nets tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning after missing the past four games with a knee injury. Darcy Kuemper will likely be reassigned to Iowa either today or tomorrow joining the Baby Wild in Charlotte for Saturday’s game.

Defenseman Keith Ballard will miss his second consecutive game. As I mentioned on yesterday’s blog I saw him before and after the Toronto game and he looked Zombie-like. He practiced yesterday but he didn’t take the ice this morning and coach Mike Yeo said Ballard isn’t “feeling well.” So that’s obviously not good after taking a puck to the face Monday in Buffalo.

“More than anything else this is preventative” Yeo said. “If he’s not feeling well we’ve got eight healthy defensemen.”

Matt Dumba returns to the lineup tonight. Nate Prosser is scratched. Yeo said he played very well in Toronto but it’s time to get Dumba back in. For Tampa Bay giant goalie Ben Bishop in goal and Martin St. Louis who is typically an iron man is a gametime decision after blocking Drew Doughty’s shot the other night. Coach Jon Cooper says it’s a pain tolerance thing.

On the Wild Cooper said “I look at the score – the 4-1 loss to Toronto – and I’m sitting there thinking in my head ‘Toronto’s rolling and Minnesota must have ran into a buzz saw.’ And then I watched the game and I can’t believe the score wasn’t reversed at worst. … They’re extremely structured they battled hard all through their lines and I think they have some guy on defense there that plays 75 minutes in a 60-minute game (Ryan Suter). He’s just a horse back there. It’s pretty impressive to watch. Pretty impressed with their team. There’s a lot of structure and they play really hard so this is going to be a tough one for us tonight.”

Cooper what a great affable interview. Fascinating guy. Was an attorney that coached hockey on the ice. He’s just moved up and up and up has won everywhere and now is an NHL coach. He actually turned down a law partnership to coach in the USHL. He also played lacrosse at Hofstra which is a stone’s throw from where I was kid running around on Long Island.

As of now the Wild lines will start the same tonight for Minnesota with Nino Niederreiter staying on the top line and Jason Pominville skating on the second line with Mikael Granlund and Dany Heatley.

I thought Yeo may return Pominville with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu because all three of his goals have come on the power play when them on the ice but Yeo said that he’s still getting a lot of even-strength chances and he’s seen a step in Granlund’s game. Yeo says it seems like Pominville and Granlund complement each other very well.

Now it’s a matter of getting the third guy to complement the other two – Heatley. Yeo and Heatley weren’t on the ice during the morning skate and the presumption is they were watching video.