(SportsNetwork.com) - A Minnesota Wild team that was shut out for the second
time in four games on Tuesday could be getting a major boost to its offense.
The Wild may have forward Zach Parise back in the lineup for the first time in
15 games on Thursday night when they host the Chicago Blackhawks, who wrap up
a set of back-to-back games on consecutive nights.
Parise has not played since Dec. 22 due to a foot injury originally suffered
on Nov. 25 when he blocked a shot. He was expected to miss 2-to-3 weeks at
that time, but returned after missing just one game.
However, the injury lingered and he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 28.
The 29-year-old, who has 15 goals and 27 points in 37 games this season, put
in a full practice on Wednesday and said afterwards that he felt good but
would probably wait until morning skate to see if he will play tonight.
"We don't know that yet. The plan was to get him involved, full duty in
practice and see how he responds to that," echoed Wild coach Mike Yeo,. "He
looked good. We weren't really worried about how he was going to look, it's a
matter of how he feels."
Minnesota, also without forward Mikko Koivu (ankle surgery) and goaltender
Josh Harding (illness), was blanked 4-0 by Dallas on Tuesday just a few days
after recording a 3-2 overtime win at home over the Stars. This time around,
the Wild failed to get any of their 18 shots past Dallas netminder Kari
Darcy Kuemper gave up all four goals on 36 shots for the Wild, who had won
seven of nine coming into the contest.
"Well we won the opening faceoff and spent 40 seconds in our own zone, that's
a bad sign right there," said Yeo. "We weren't ready to execute, to get going
the right way and it just trickled on from there."
Minnesota is 18-7-2 at home this season and begins a four-game road trip on
Saturday in San Jose. The club is just 9-13-3 on the road.
Kuemper is in line to make his sixth straight start tonight -- the first of
his career versus the Blackhawks -- and should be backed up by Niklas
Backstrom. He had been out with a lingering lower-body issue but netminder
Johan Gustafsson was reassigned to the minors on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks had a two-game win streak snapped last night with a 5-4
shootout setback in Detroit. Though it was Chicago's fifth loss in eight
games, the club has a point in all but one of those contests (3-1-4) and still
leads St. Louis by five points for first place in the Central Division.
Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa all scored in
regulation, while Jonathan Toews and Sharp added shootout goals. However, Shaw
couldn't extend the tiebreaker in the sixth round, denied on his chance after
Corey Crawford was bested for the third time in the shootout a skater earlier.
Crawford made 27 saves through overtime.
"We weren't very good tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They
worked hard. They were the harder-working team and getting ourselves a point
out of there, with a chance for two in the shootout, certainly we'll take a
point because we didn't play well enough or hard enough."
Hossa scored in a third straight game and has a goal in five of his last six
contests, with six goals over that time to give him 21 on the season.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, though, has gone 11 straight games without a
goal but did have two assists against the Red Wings. He has five helpers over
his goal drought.
Antti Raanta may get the start tonight for Chicago and the rookie has never
faced the Wild. He is 12-1-3 with a 2.25 goals against average and .911 save
percentage in 17 games (15 starts) on the season.
The Blackhawks have lost two of three to the Wild this season and have lost
six of their past nine in Minnesota.
Kane has two goals and two assists in the three meetings this season, while
Parise has two goals and Jason Pominville is pacing the Wild with three goals
and an assist.
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