When Matt Cullen won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, the Hurricanes lost their starting goalie before the team played its first road game in the playoffs.

They got "spanked," Cullen said, in Games 1 and 2.

The starter, Martin Gerber, was sick and had played poorly. So they turned to little-known backup Cam Ward, age 21, and threw him in a hostile environment against the Canadiens in Montreal.

Ward didn't give up the cage after that. He went on to win the Conn Smythe, given annually to the most valuable player during the playoffs.

Cullen looked back on that team, that goaltending situation, on Wednesday, May 8, before boarding a plane for Chicago and Game 5 of the Minnesota Wild's opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

Asked about his thoughts on the Wild's third-string goalie, Darcy Kuemper, who just might start the team's biggest game of the year Thursday night the veteran center said, "It's a good opportunity for him."

It's a tough comparison to make -- 23-year-old Kuemper to Conn Smythe-winner Ward. But their situations aren't all that different.

"Your first opportunity isn't (always) ideal," Cullen said. "He's a great kid, and he's worked very hard to get where he is, so I think he'll do fine."