NHL hockey was absent from Minnesota for seven years, and the upstart Wild stumbled through two rough seasons in their debut.
Then came 2003, when the fervor of a playoff run came roaring back to a state that's as tied to the sport as any other in the nation.
''It was a magical time to be playing here in Minnesota,'' said former Wild left wing Andrew Brunette, ''and I think about that group all the time.''
This Wild team, exactly a decade later, would love to be able to do what Brunette's did, reaching the Western Conference finals as the sixth seed that year after winning three elimination games in each of their first two series.
Just as in 2003, the Wild are facing a heavy favorite right away.
The Chicago Blackhawks, who breezed through this condensed season with an NHL-best 36-7-5 record, already have a 2-0 lead in this first-round series over the eighth-seeded Wild. Minnesota is back on home ice for Game 3 on Sunday.
The Xcel Energy Center is sure to be buzzing, though the...