Despite how closely Minnesota is associated with hockey, the sport has been cruel to its faithful fans. Hockey's biggest prize—sports' most storied trophy, the Stanley Cup—has never called the State of Hockey home. Twice during the North Stars' 26-year history they skated in the finals, and twice they came up short. The Wild have yet to play for the cup, but do have some playoff experience. During the 2002-03 season, they startled many by reaching the Western Conference finals, but the Anaheim Ducks dispatched them with a sweep. It's been a tough stretch since then. The 2004-05 season was canceled by the players' strike, and in the 2005-06 season they finished last in the Northwest division. Last season the Ducks sent the Wild off in the first round. Although they now lead the Northwest, it's not going to be easy for the Wild this postseason. Defenseman Kurtis Foster recently broke his femur and will be out for the season, and a slew of other injuries have left the team staggering to the finish. The Wild's last home game should offer a preview of the team that will take the playoff ice this year in hopes of beginning a new chapter of Minnesota professional hockey history: one with champions.
Thu., April 3, 7 p.m., 2008