The Minnesota Wild will be getting a top player back just in time to face the top team in the Central Division.
After missing 14 games with a foot injury, Zach Parise will return Thursday night when the Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks.
"The plan was to get him involved, full duty in practice and see how he responds to that," Wild coach Mike Yeo told the team’s official website Wednesday after practice. "He looked good. We weren’t really worried about how he was going to look, it’s a matter of how he feels."
Parise, who remains second on the team with 15 goals, was cleared to return after participating in Thursday’s morning skate.
"It still can get sore after skating and things like that," said Parise, who has two goals in three games against Chicago this season. "But as long as I feel like it’s not preventing me from doing anything on the ice, I think I can play."
The Wild (27-20-5) could use the offense following Monday’s 4-0 loss at Dallas. They’ve been shut out in two of their last four, though they sandwiched two wins between those losses.
It’s taken quality offensive games for the Wild to beat the Blackhawks this season, and they’ve done so twice in three tries, though they’ve been outscored 11-10 in those games. Parise scored in both wins, including the latest meeting – a 4-3 victory in Minnesota on Dec. 5.
Jason Pominville, who leads the Wild with 19 goals but scored only twice in Parise’s absence, has three goals and an assist in the three meetings.
Chicago (32-8-12) suffered its sixth overtime loss in its last 12 games Tuesday at Detroit, falling to 5-1-6 in that span. The 5-4 shootout loss came after the Blackhawks built a 2-0 lead midway through the first period, but they ended up needing a late third-period goal from Marcus Kruger to send it to overtime.
"We weren’t very good," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They worked hard. They were a hard-working team."
Patrick Sharp scored his team-leading 26th goal to snap a season-worst seven-game drought, while Marian Hossa scored his fourth goal in his last three games, giving him eight points during a six-game point streak.
Chicago could have used one from Patrick Kane, who had two assists but has gone 11 games without a goal for the first time since 2008-09. Kane, who leads the team with 58 points, has two goals and an assist this season against the Wild.
The high-scoring Blackhawks are likely to face Minnesota’s No. 3 goaltender, Darcy Kuemper. Niklas Backstrom (lower-body injury) returned to practice Wednesday but is expected to serve as backup. Kuemper has started the last five games with Backstrom out, going 3-2-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average.
Fellow Wild goalie Josh Harding has missed 13 of 15 games after adjusting his treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Kuemper faced 36 shots against the Stars as the Wild had their own shot total doubled. They’ve been outshot 71-37 in the last two games, while Chicago has outshot each of its last five opponents – a 196-135 advantage.
"We can’t keep getting doubled up on shots and expect to have good results," Wild center Kyle Brodziak said.
Chicago’s Corey Crawford, who took the shootout loss against Detroit, has been in net for all three meetings with the Wild, yielding a 3.39 GAA with an .872 save percentage.
Rookie backup Antti Raanta has won his last three starts with a 1.67 GAA and is 12-1-3 this season.
The Wild have gone 0 for 15 on the power play over their last six games.