Two nights after one member of the Minnesota Wild enjoyed support from his former team’s fans, it remains to be seen how Zach Parise will be received in his first game in New Jersey in nearly two years.
Minnesota seeks its fourth straight victory over the Devils when the teams meet Thursday night.
Parise recorded 410 points while spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Devils, captaining them to the Stanley Cup finals in 2012. The Minnesota native became an unrestricted free agent that offseason and signed a 13-year, $98 million deal with the Wild.
With the teams not matching up during last season’s shortened schedule, the left winger recorded an assist in his first career game against New Jersey, a 4-0 win Nov. 3.
Matt Moulson, traded by the New York Islanders to Buffalo in October before being dealt to Minnesota on March 5, had two goals and an assist in a 6-0 road victory over the Islanders on Tuesday. He was welcomed warmly by New York fans, even with their team being blown out. Moulson entered with two points over his first six games for the Wild (36-23-10).
"It’s a little different situation. He got traded and I didn’t," Parise said with a laugh. "I don’t know how it’s going to be when I get there."
Peter DeBoer, who coached Parise in his final season with the Devils, didn’t spend much time discussing Parise’s return, calling his departure from the team "old news."
"Obviously I’m a Zach Parise fan. He was our captain here," DeBoer said. "The game in Minnesota, we kind of moved past the ‘he’s playing against us now.’ I don’t think I’ll be dealing with that. I would hope our team wouldn’t be dealing with any of that."
DeBoer is likely much more concerned with a three-game losing streak for New Jersey (29-27-13). The Devils are five points back of Columbus for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, while a third-place finish in the Metropolitan Division appears out of reach with seven points separating them from the Rangers.
Fans booed the Devils as they trailed 3-1 entering the third period of a 4-2 loss to Boston on Tuesday.
"Our effort is just not at the right point for the urgency that we need to make that push toward the playoffs," said Martin Brodeur, who has combined with Cory Schneider for a 4.00 goals-against average during the three-game skid.
Schneider allowed three goals on just 19 shots in the first meeting with Minnesota.
Though the Wild had dropped five of six before Tuesday’s blowout victory, they’re much more comfortable in terms of playoff positioning with a five-point edge over Phoenix for the West’s top wild-card spot. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 36 shots in his second start for Minnesota since being traded from Edmonton.
Jason Pominville has four goals and three assists during a six-game point streak and has four goals over his last four against New Jersey.
Patrik Elias has five goals and seven assists in 10 games for the Devils since the Olympic break.