The 2003 NHL draft began with the Pittsburgh Penguins selecting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with the No. 1 overall pick, the first step in a career that will conclude in the Hall of Fame someday.

Fast forward 19 years, and the No. 1 topic facing the Minnesota Wild on the eve of the playoffs is whether Fleury or Cam Talbot will get the start in goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues.

Coach Dean Evason has offered no clues about his decision — assuming it already has been made — but teams tend not to disclose that kind of information publicly until required because competitive gamesmanship is playoff tradecraft.

While we wait, it's constructive to look back a month or so before the '03 draft for context, maybe even clues, about how things could unfold for the Wild in the postseason.

The Wild rode two goalies — Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez — to the Western Conference final that season. Their tag-team arrangement worked out well, which raises a question for the present decision:

Why do we feel the need to declare a No. 1 goalie?

Odds are, the Wild will need to rely on both Fleury and Talbot in the playoffs to keep advancing. Call them 1 and 1A.

"Just the way that our game is going now," General Manager Bill Guerin said, "I don't know if we'll start seeing more tandems in the playoffs, but we sure do in the regular season because it's just so hard on those guys."

Only one can start Game 1, but that doesn't guarantee the plan won't change at some point, and then change again. Whoever takes a seat in the opener probably shouldn't get too comfortable.

Nobody would ever suggest using a game-by-game rotation. That's way too disruptive. The likely scenario is that Evason stays with a hot hand, however long that lasts, but remains flexible in case the first goalie isn't sharp.

Evason knows that he won't need to cross his fingers and hope that his goalie pulls himself together if he falters. He has a pair of capable veteran goalies, and a mid-series switch could provide a spark, if necessary.

"Obviously we'll both respect the decision that they make," Talbot said. "Both of us have been playing well. We're both probably deserving of it."

That was the thinking back in 2003 when Roloson and Fernandez split duties. Roloson started the first four games of the first series against Colorado. Fernandez relieved him in Game 4 and then started the final three games.

Next series, Fernandez got the nod in Games 1 and 4 vs. Vancouver, and Roloson handled the rest.

Both goalies started two games in the Western Conference final sweep by Anaheim.

In all, Roloson appeared in 11 games and Fernandez nine that postseason.

That a debate exists over whether Fleury or Talbot should get the start in Game 1 shows that the Wild is in a good spot.

Talbot has been steadier down the stretch. Fleury's playoff experience and pedigree are valuable if he can recapture that version of himself.

"It's a great situation for the Wild to have right now," Roloson said from his Florida home earlier this week. "They're both going to be vested, they're both going to be ready to go. They're going to support one another and that's the key thing, the support."

Fans were downright giddy when Guerin pulled off a trade for Fleury at the deadline in exchange for a conditional first-round pick. That pick stays a first-rounder if the Wild advances to the Western Conference final and Fleury wins four games through the first two rounds. Otherwise, the pick will be downgraded to a second-rounder.

Talbot handled Fleury's arrival like a true pro. He welcomed him graciously, tightened up his own game after it slipped and went 13-0-3 in his final 16 starts of the regular season. He has earned the right to start Game 1.

Fleury's playoff resume — 160 career starts and 90 wins — cannot be discounted in deliberations between Guerin and the coaching staff.

"We like them both," Evason said.

Good thing. He'll need both for his team to make a deep playoff run.