ANAHEIM, CALIF. - As if Kurtis Foster didn't have enough pressure replacing top-minute man defenseman Kim Johnsson in the Wild's lineup for Game 5, General Manager Doug Risebrough tossed a little more on, calling Thursday's game "a defining moment for Kurtis."
Foster, 25, has all the tools to be a top defenseman. He's 6-5. He has a tremendous shot. He can be one of the Wild's most physical defenseman.
But Wild brass has been frustrated with inconsistency and a lack of confidence in Foster's game.
"He will deliver the goods in certain games and not in others," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "He's the type of guy that will question his moves all the time, so it's kind of tough to get him on a run because every move he questions.
"Did I make the right pass? Did I get the right shot? It's confidence."
Risebrough challenged Foster on Thursday, saying, "This situation [Thursday] -- now is the time to play to your strengths. These are the moments to show that."
Foster, whose 10 goals last season led all Wild defensemen, scored three this season. He was on top of his game in December until Johnsson, coincidentally, shot a puck off Foster's larynx as he sat on the bench. Foster missed the next nine games, then missed another nine in January because of a sprained knee.
Risebrough gets aggravated that Foster doesn't use his shot more.
"He's got one of the top shots in the league, but there's got to be a lot of them and they've got to be on the net and they've got to be in critical situations, on the power play," Risebrough said. "But to make it in this league, just a good shot isn't enough."
Foster, scratched seven games during the regular season and twice in the playoffs, said: "I don't want to just be a fill-in. I want to stay in every single night. ... I battled with [confidence] in my career early on, but I feel I've really worked hard to try to get away from that."
Not an option
Derek Boogaard has learned a lot of things in his career, but maybe the biggest came from Dave Farrish, the Ducks assistant coach who was Boogaard's first pro coach in Louisiana of the East Coast Hockey League in 2003.
"I can't miss optional skates," Boogaard said, smiling, after skating during the Wild's optional Thursday morning. "I took off an optional skate once. We got in at 8 in the morning. ... I come to the rink [in the afternoon], and [Farrish] pulls me in the office, and says, 'You're a player who can never miss an optional skate for the rest of your career.'
"So today was an optional and I was out there."
The 6-7 Boogaard played 33 games for the IceGators that season, compiling 240 penalty minutes.
"He's worked his tail off to become a good player," Farrish said. "It's tough to teach size like that. He had one thing going for him, and he certainly made the most of it. He's a great kid. He's got a good work ethic. He learned young that the only way he was going to get here is by hard work and nobody was going to do it for him.
"He put a lot of hours in the gym. He's worked hard on his body, his skating has improved, his hockey sense has improved, everything. He's made himself into a good hockey player."