Willis Reed did it for the New York Knicks in 1970.
But even the return of Nick Schultz 12 days after emergency appendectomy surgery could not help the Minnesota Wild stave off elimination as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Wild 2-1 to win the best-of-seven series 4 game to 2.
Schultz played over 16 minutes, nearly a normal game, but the ultimate undoing of the Wild was due to their continuing anemic offense, as three of their top 6 forwards -- Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra, and Eric Belanger -- combined for a grand total of one goal (by Demitra) and three assists (two by Demitra and one last night by Gaborik) over the six games of the series.
Ben Guite, young 3rd-line winger and veteran Ryan Smyth, a.k.a. 'Captain Canada' for his international play -- both found the twine for the Avs, who now wait to face either Detroit, San Jose or Dallas in the second round of the playoffs.
The Wild end the season as the only 2007-2008 division champion not to at least go to a Game 7 in their first round series; the Northwest Division winner has been eliminated in the first round in 4 of the last 5 seasons.
What will the future hold for the Wild? Nine current members of the roster (Carney, Hill, Nummelin, Simon, Demitra, Rolston, Radivojevic, Fedoruk, Voros) will all become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Another (Pierre-Marc Bouchard) will become a restricted free agent (the kind that Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe loves to covet), so there will be a significant overhaul of the playing roster during the summer. But, the largest key to the player puzzle will be the upcoming final season of Marian Gaborik's contract in 2008-09; he could come with upwards of a $10 Million/year price tag, and the Wild need to ask themselves: Do they want to possibly get into a Kevin Garnett-esque situation, having a significant portion of their salary cap tied to one player?
All we as fans can do is sit back and watch what happens.
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