The Minnesota Wild has a tough road ahead, not only because it faces a Western Conference heavy schedule, but also because the club is expected to be without leading scorer, Zach Parise.
The forward suffered a foot contusion on Monday against the St. Louis Blues when he blocked a slap shot off the sick of Alexander Steen. Yesterday, it was projected he’d be out for 2-3 weeks, but Parise was already on the ice at today’s morning skate and was a full participant, so that’s a big unexpected positive. He will be out tonight because the comfort level is just not there.
After a four-game road trip, the Wild returns to Xcel Energy Center tonight against Phoenix Coyotes. It is the first clash of the season between the Wild and Coyotes. Last year, Minnesota took the season series 2-1-0. Home ice has been nice for the Wild; the club owns the NHL’s second-best record at home (10-1-2).
With so many games against Western Conference opponents on the horizon, each game will increase in significance. The top of the West is more packed than Fran’s press elevator at Xcel Energy Center on the way to media dining. Only six points separate the top eight teams (1. Chicago, 38 points; 8. Phoenix, 32 points) in the Western Conference. Minnesota stands two points ahead of Phoenix, with the Coyotes playing one less game.
UPDATED: Minnesota has activated forward Torrey Mitchell and defenseman Keith Ballard from Injured Reserve. Minnesota reassigns goaltender Darcy Kuemper and forward Jason Zucker to Iowa of the American Hockey League.
Despite the recent string of injuries, there was some positive news at today’s morning skate. After missing two games with an upper-body injury, Mikael Granlund was in full gear at today’s morning skate. Also participating for the first time in a week was Torrey Mitchell, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury and is on Injured Reserve. Their availability for tonight is still up in the air, so lineup decisions amongst the forwards will come at game time.
Defenseman Keith Ballard is expected to return from Injured Reserve after missing nine games with an upper-body injury. In net, Josh Harding participated in the team’s pre-game skate, as well. The netminder left Saturday’s pregame warm-up against Winnipeg with a lower-body injury and hasn’t been on the ice since.
Minnesota was shut out for the first time this season against the St. Louis Blues on Monday, 3-0. Niklas Backstrom made 18 saves in the loss.
On Monday, the Coyotes lost to the Nashville Predators, 4-2. After falling into a three-goal deficit in the first, Mikkel Boedker and Tim Kennedy scored in the second for Phoenix, but the team couldn’t complete the comeback. Goaltender Mike Smith made 25 saves in the loss.
Meet the Yotes
Phoenix is on a three-game losing skid and may be without its longtime captain Shane Doan tonight. The team’s leading goal scorer left Monday’s game with a lower-body injury and did not skate yesterday.
The Coyotes might have one of the League’s most underrated young blueliners in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 22-year-old has 17 points (4-13=17) and is a plus-9 in 24 games.
If You’re Going
The first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a BINGOAL card courtesy of Innovative Office Solutions. BINGOAL it’s just like the classic game BINGO, but fans will mark game-related spots like goals, assists and penalties in their cards.
Mikko Koivu has nine points (3-6=9) in his last seven games and his 13 points (4-9=13) in his last 10 contests are T-2nd for most points in the NHL since Nov. 5.
Probable Wild Lineup
If Granlund and Mitchell return, here’s what the forward lines might look like:
If Ballard returns to the blue line:
Between the Pipes
Niklas Backstrom is 13-9-0 with a 2.19 GAA, a .929 SV% and three shutouts in 22 starts vs. the Coyotes
Yeo Quote of the Day
It shows what kind of guy he is. He's an unbelievable competitor.
- Yeo on Parise participating in morning skate
View From the Press Box
There will be at least one forward scratched depending on what happens up front.
Honorary State of Hockey Resident
D Zbynek Michalek skated in 22 games with Minnesota in 2003-04.
Outside of missing 69 games with a knee injury in 2010-11, Parise has missed a total of three games during his other eight NHL seasons.
Wild vs. Phoenix will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North with a start time at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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