With the fate of the Minnesota Wild’s season hanging in the balance, top line left winger Zach Parise is out for an unspecified amount of games with a re-aggravated foot injury sustained last month.
Always the warrior, Parise would miss just one game after being projected to miss two to three weeks after blocking a blast from St. Louis’ Alexander Steen on November 25th. However, since then, both Parise and Minnesota would struggle, going 5-9-1 and 1-7-1 on the road in the following 15 games. With their top player clearly not feeling 100-percent and visibly struggling, the Wild has seemed to lose its confidence as scorers struggle to find the back of the net and Niklas Backstrom fights unsuccessfully for wins in Josh Harding’s absence.
While there’s no knowing how soon Parise finds his way back in the lineup, there’s no question the whole team needs to step up in the meantime. As such, Stephane Veilleux has been recalled from Iowa, and 2010 5th overall pick Nino Niederreiter finds himself skating on the top line with captain Mikko Koivu and fellow 2010 first rounder Charlie Coyle. In turn, Dany Heatley has been promoted from the fourth line (it just blows my mind that this has to be said about the former two-time 50-goal scorer) to the left side of Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville on the Wild’s second line. With the top-6 set, it looks like the bottom two lines will be made up of Justin Fontaine, Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke, and Torrey Mitchell, Zenon Konopka and Veilleux.
So far this season, the Minnesota Wild have yet to drop a contest to the Winnipeg Jets. That very well could change tonight. Harding, while back practicing with the team, isn’t quite for game action, meaning it’s Backstrom and rookie Johan Gustafsson as the Wild’s No. 1 and No. 2 tonight. It could be a long night for Minnesota without one of their two leading scorers. In 37 games, Parise has 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 points and a plus-1 rating. He ranks second in goals and leads the team with eight power play markers. Niederreiter has certainly got some big shoes to fill.