By Michael Russo
The Wild’s blue line has taken a severe blow with the playoffs beginning Wednesday against Colorado.
Defenseman Nick Schultz underwent a successful appendectomy tonight at a local Twin Cities hospital. He is resting comfortably.
GM Doug Risebrough wouldn’t guess how long Schultz will be out, but this is clearly a long-term absence. In 2004-05, Mikko Koivu missed 12 games after undergoing an appendectomy. This season, Colorado’s Paul Stastny missed 15 games due to an appendectomy.
Schultz traveled here to Denver for Sunday’s game, but he thought he had a stomach virus and didn’t play. He came to Xcel Energy Center on Monday morning for the team photo but immediately left.
It was later discovered he had appendicitis.
This is a monumental blow to the team, and not to send you all into an emotional tizzy, but a potential series killer.
Schultz is the Wild’s most reliable, consistent defenseman. He’s turned into a shutdown guy, and like the 2003 quarterfinals, he was going to be assigned the ice every time Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg hopped the boards.
Now, the Wild will have to go with loads and loads and loads of Kim Johnsson, Brent Burns and Martin Skoula against guys like Sakic, Forsberg, Stastny, Hejduk, Wolski, etc.
Keith Carney and Sean Hill will see more ice, and Petteri Nummelin is now in.
Nummelin’s had three assists in six games this season vs. Colorado, and his speed actually could be a welcome thing. And, the Avs aren’t the most physical team. Let’s put it this way: It’s better Nummelin’s not playing every night against Calgary.
The Wild won’t be calling anybody up. Until your minor-league is eliminated, you only get four callups. The Wild has already used two with Steve Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. So it won’t take the risk of calling up anybody else until it’s absolutely necessary.