By Michael Russo
Just wrote these for the web site. Posting here if it doesn’t get on till morning. First is the Foster story, below is the gamer. FYI, unedited and written quickly because I have a 4 a.m. wakeup call.
By Michael Russo
SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster underwent season-ending surgery at a San Jose hospital late Wednesday night after breaking his left leg during the second period of the Wild’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Sharks.
Foster suffered a displaced fracture to his left femur and was going to have a steel rod inserted to stabilize the leg, director of hockey operations Chris Snow said.
Assistant GM Tom Lynn said Thursday morning a timetable for Foster’s recovery won’t be known for a few weeks.
It’s a devastating injury for the 26-year-old, third-year Wild blue-liner who had just started picking up big minutes and playing solid hockey.
“I thought he was playing great,” coach Jacques Lemaire said. “He was playing his best hockey. It’s a big loss.”
In fact, the injury came shortly after Foster made a terrific, heads-up play to set up a Wild tying goal 49 seconds into the second period. Foster passed up a shot, instead executing a perfect slap pass to Stephane Veilleux for the winger’s 11th goal.
But four minutes later, Foster tried to chase down a Christian Ehrhoff dump-in behind his own net.
As Foster passed the goal line, he was hit from behind by an oncoming Torrey Mitchell and slammed headfirst into the lower part of the end boards at full-speed.
“It’s just one of those things that tell you that there should be automatic icing,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “I guess that’s a play where the fans want to see a big car wreck like that.”
Mitchell, immediately realizing the severity of the situation, showed concern toward Foster.
“We both fell, so I don’t know if I lost an edge first or he lost an edge first,” Mitchell said. “I was coming in with a lot of speed and so was he. We collided. It wasn’t intentional. I asked him if he was OK when it was over and he said no. … I would never want to hurt anyone.”
Trainer Don Fuller raced out to aid Foster, who was crouched on his side in pain. After a few minutes, paramedics were called out with Fuller, assistant athletic trainer Mike Vogt, four Wild teammates and Sharks veteran Jeremy Roenick assisting.
“It was not fun,” Roenick said of the scene. “You never like to see things like that happen. You don’t wish injuries on anybody. The kid, he showed a lot of guts to go into the corner after that puck at that kind of speed. It seemed like he was in a lot of pain. But he held himself pretty good.
“I hope he’s OK. I wanted to go over to show my appreciation for his toughness.”
In visible agony as his leg was put into a splint and he was placed on a backboard, Foster was taken off on a stretcher after a 12-minute delay. Mitchell was assessed a two-minute minor for tripping, but the Wild went into an emotional lull immediately after.
“It was tough,” said Mikko Koivu, Foster’s closest friend on the Wild. “It made it a little bit better when I asked him how he was and he said it hurts. At first I thought he couldn’t move. But he felt the pain and I think that’s a good sign.
“We know he’s going to get better. At first, you get scared, you know? It’s going to be a long rehab for him, but still, you have to be happy. He went hard along the boards. It was tough to get going after.”
The Wild had to play the final 35 minutes with five defensemen. The injury is significant. Petteri Nummelin’s out with a groin injury, and Lemaire has shown little faith in veterans Keith Carney and Sean Hill all season.
They’ve either been healthy scratches or seen limited minutes.
“I will have to go sit down and look what’s left,” Lemaire said. “We have to call somebody up. We have to.”
Candidates at AHL Houston are defensemen Clayton Stoner, Erik Reitz and Shawn Belle.
By Michael Russo
SAN JOSE, CALIF. – In a game marred by a season-ending injury to defenseman Kurtis Foster, the Wild stole a point from the hottest team in hockey Wednesday night.
Marian Gaborik twice rallied the Wild back from a one-goal, third-period deficit, the last coming on a power play with 28.7 seconds left in regulation, before the Wild once again succumbed in the shootout to the San Jose Sharks, 4-3.
With the Wild trailing 2-1 with 39 seconds left, Sharks defenseman Chris Ehrhoff was called for hooking Gaborik behind the Sharks’ net. The penalty gave the Wild a 6-on-4 because goalie Niklas Backstrom had been pulled for an extra attacker.
Mikko Koivu, 16 of 26 on faceoffs, won the draw cleanly, the Wild worked the puck around and Gaborik one-timed Brian Rolston’s pass from the point for the tying score, his 38th goal, which tied his career-high.
The goal came after Joe Pavelski gave San Jose, 13-0-1 in its past 14 and without a regulation loss since Feb. 20, a 2-1 lead with 2:02 left.
“It was a good point,” said Gaborik. “I don’t know how many times we’ve been scored on late this year, so to tie it late, it’s a huge point. But too bad, shootouts lately don’t work well for us. But it was important to get a point out of here.”
The Wild, which has lost four shootouts in his last six games, fell to 3-7 this season in shootouts with Backstrom, the worst goalie in shootout history, falling to 1-6. Pavelski and Jeremy Roenick beat Backstrom. Brent Burns scored for the Wild, but Gaborik and Koivu missed. After going 12 for 21 in his first two seasons in shootouts, Koivu is 1 for 7 this season.
During overtime, FSN North’s Kevin Gorg reported that equipment trainers went to get backup Josh Harding’s mask and glove, speculating that perhaps the coaches were contemplating pulling Backstrom if it got to a shootout.
Lemaire denied that, saying, “We felt he played good enough. He deserved to be there.”
“It’s getting kind of frustrating to lose on shootouts,” Koivu said. “It’s an extra point. We need the extra bounce in the shootout or a lucky one or something. But they’re the second-best team in the whole league right now, so even one point on the road is good.
“And the way we played is something we have to be satisfied with.”
The point gives the Northwest Division-leading Wild 87, pushing Minnesota three points ahead of idle Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado.
Foster sustained a broken left leg early in the second period. He was scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery late Wednesday night at a San Jose hospital. The injury forced the Wild to play with five defensemen for the final 35-plus minutes and overtime.
Defenseman Kim Johnsson played a season-high 30 minutes, 2 seconds.
“You look at a guy like Johnsson,” coach Jacques Lemaire said. “He made a few mistakes at the end because he played too much. I mean, he played 18 minutes after two periods. It was kind of tough. I thought the guys battled hard.”
On the go-ahead goal, defenseman Martin Skoula’s attempted pass to Johnsson was deflected by Milan Michalek. Michalek put the puck out front for Pavelski’s goal.
This after Gaborik one-timed Brent Burns’ pass earlier in the period to tie the score at 2-2. Burns had drawn a cross-checking penalty from Joe Thornton to put the Wild on the power play.
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead into the second because they capitalized on their one odd-man rush and the Wild couldn’t on its two.
Gaborik pick-pocketed defenseman Brian Campbell in the neutral zone for a breakaway, but Evgeni Nabokov kicked out his right pad to deny Gaborik’s wrist shot.
Later, Pavol Demitra and Gaborik took off on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush, but defenseman Matt Carle cut off any chance of the pass and Nabokov stopped Demitra’s shot.
But with about two minutes left, Skoula lost the puck at the offensive blue line, then fell down when Patrick Marleau tripped him up.
There was no call – something that infuriated Lemaire. That triggered a 3-on-1 with Hill the only Wild player back. It ended with a perfectly-executed tic-tac-toe from Curtis Brown-to-Marleau-to-Roenick to beat Backstrom.
The period also included Derek Boogaard opening up San Jose’s Jody Shelley’s right cheek like a can of tomato paste. It was Boogaard’s first fight since Nov. 23 when he dropped the gloves with a Columbus Blue Jacket named … Jody Shelley.
But Foster made a great slap pass to set up Stephane Veilleux’s tying goal to open the second before Curtis Brown gave San Jose a one-goal lead again.
The Wild is winless in seven games against the Sharks since Oct. 21, 2006. The Wild’s final eight games will be against Northwest Division foes, with the first of three road games coming Friday in Vancouver.