-- They've even changed the drapes.
As Jacques Lemaire delivers his postgame and postpractice comments from now on, he will be doing so in front of a fresh new pipe-and-drape number with the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff emblems set behind him.
While so much had been made about how the Wild were playing in "playoff" games for weeks now, that was still very much in the finger-quote sense. The true playoffs are here, and there is a noticeable difference -- beyond even the drapes and the playoff insignias on the name cards above players' stalls.
Press conferences last longer, media crowds around players are deeper (sometimes even in an intellectual sense) and personnel changes are dissected from more angles.
Which brings us to ...
On Tuesday, only eight games removed from losing one of its top six defenseman, Kurtis Foster
, to a broken femur, the Wild practiced for the first time in two years knowing that Nick Schultz would not be playing over an extended time frame. Over the course of his career, the 25-year-old from Strasbourg, Sask., had missed only two games to injury or illness. His steadiness on the ice had been nearly as consistent.
But, of course, where there is adversity, as many like to say, there is also opportunity.
Peterri Nummelin, the slick Finn who had missed 15 of the team's last 17 regular season games and more than that due to coach's decision, played 17:43 in Colorado on Sunday, where Minnesota wrapped up its regular season while Schultz was out with what was thought to be the flu.
That turned out not to be the case, obviously, and Nummelin became one of the stars of the day Tuesday, as he received the lights, camera, action treatment from the media.
Lemaire, while admitting Schultz is a big part of the Wild's success, is quick to point out the elements that Nummelin does
bring to the game.
"He'll be on the power play, for sure," Lemaire said this morning. "That's going to help the power play. He's a guy, if he feels good, [who] can make plays, he can make passes, he can skate with the puck. It won't be that bad."
The greeting split a toothless grin of Todd Fedoruk, who had noticed Foster from the ice. The injured defenseman appeared in the tunnel on the way to the bench, which is where he met with reporters, leaning on his crutches and talking about his recovery.
He isn't likely to be in attendance for Wednesday night's playoff opener, but he'll be as interested a viewer as any other fan.
"I'll be here, cheering them on from my couch and trying to be as loud as I can," Foster said.
Foster also talked about watching the replay of his injury for the first time and his thoughts about the team's loss of Schultz. To check out Foster's video interview, click here.
The Minnesota Wild is pleased to announce the return of the Wildly popular pregame rally at Rice Park in St. Paul. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. on both April 9 and 11, prior to Games 1 and 2, and include live music, food and much more. And don't forget to have your playoff trimmed, for adults, or painted on, for kids!