Thursday was turning into Friday as Wild forward Zach Parise finally stood up from his stall in the visitors' locker room at the United Center in Chicago, just a stone's throw from the Blackhawks' muted celebration down the hall.

Parise, still unshowered, described the Wild's season-ending loss to the Blackhawks as "frustrating" and "disappointing."

His teammates were more descriptive after Thursday night's 5-1 loss in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series.

"Everybody just feels sick to their stomach," Matt Cullen said.

Next question: What now?

General manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo will speak at a news conference Saturday, a good sign both will be back next season.

That leaves the goalie situation as the franchise's top priority for 2013-14. Niklas Backstrom is 35 and an unrestricted free agent, and as well as Josh Harding played in the playoffs, he is battling multiple sclerosis and has never been the No. 1 goalie for an entire season. That position would seem in line for some changes.
The rest of the team is expected to remain intact.

"If you want to look at it objectively, there's been a lot of improvement in our organization and our team, and I feel we're going in the right direction," Yeo said after Thursday's loss.

At one point after the game, Parise and fellow forward Jason Pominville were the only two players still at their stalls. Both were seated, visibly distraught, looking ahead. Their eyes didn't move, their

expressions didn't change.
The duo represented the Wild's new-found emphasis on finding scoring over the past nine months.

But in the first season with Parise and Ryan Suter, and after acquiring Pominville at the trade deadline, the Wild's season felt a bit like a failure despite the organization's first playoff appearance in five years -- not because the team lost to the Blackhawks, but because of their late-season collapse that forced them into an opening-round meeting with the Blackhawks.

"You try to make the most out of it, but, unfortunately, we weren't able to do that," Pominville said. "At the same time I think it's a big step for the organization to be in the postseason. It's been a little while. Hopefully a lot of guys learned from this experience."

After an incredible run in March, the Wild and their fans had their sights set on a division championship, or at the very least a No. 6 seed and a first-round series against the beatable Vancouver Canucks.

Instead, Minnesota went 5-8-1 in April and had to win on the final day of the regular season just to make the playoffs. Their reward: a five-game beating administered by the best team in the NHL.

Expectations were never that the Wild would win the Stanley Cup in their first season of the Parise-Suter era. But fans wanted to see a competitive team in the playoffs, perhaps even a first-round win at one point.