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Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster leaves ice on stretcher, suffers broken left leg @NHLdotcom

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -After Kurtis Foster broke his leg in a nasty crash into the boards Wednesday night, the Minnesota Wild were left to figure out how to replace a key member of their defense just when they need him most.

Foster, a rising young defenseman playing his best hockey of the season, broke his left leg in a collision with San Jose rookie Torrey Mitchell and the boards behind Minnesota's net in the second period. He was expected to undergo surgery to insert a stabilizing rod into his leg, almost certainly ending his season.

Foster left the ice on a stretcher, and the Wild battled back from the disturbing injury to force overtime - but the Sharks won 4-3 in a shootout.

"When a guy goes down, you have to battle through it," defenseman Kim Johnsson said. "You have to keep winning games. Seeing Foster like that, you don't want to see anyone get hurt like that."

Minnesota has lost six of eight in a Northwest Division race that's exceptionally tight. With 87 points, the first-place Wild are barely in front of Calgary, Colorado and Vancouver, who all have 84 points.

Foster, who missed five games earlier in the season with a broken bone near his eye, has seven goals and 12 assists this season, including an assist on the Wild's first goal against San Jose.

"I thought he was playing great," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "He was playing his best hockey. It's a big loss."

Lemaire was uncertain how the Wild will replace Foster for the final three games of their four-game road trip. Minnesota visits Vancouver on Friday night, followed by trips to Edmonton and Calgary.

"I will have to go and sit down and see what is left," he said.

Foster was slightly ahead of Mitchell as they chased a puck toward the boards behind the Minnesota goal. The 5-foot-11 San Jose center, who was hoping to prevent an icing call, put out his arms just enough to disrupt the precarious balance of the 6-foot-5 Foster, who already appeared to be falling when the players' skates collided.

"I was just trying to get to the puck first," Mitchell said. "We collided, and obviously it was unintentional. You never want to hurt anyone, and I hope he's OK."

Foster went hard into the boards and remained on the ice for 12 minutes while medical personnel put a splint on Foster's leg and strapped him to a backboard. Foster was moving his head and talking to paramedics when they lifted him off the ice, and he shook hands with Sharks center Jeremy Roenick.

The Wild said Foster was taken to O'Connor Hospital in San Jose with a displaced fracture of his left femur. Mitchell got a two-minute penalty for tripping, prompting anger from Lemaire.

"When you look at the game overall, I think it wasn't one of the best games refereed this year," he said.

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