BLUE JACKETS (2-3-1) AT WILD (2-2-1)
XCEL ENERGY CENTER | ST. PAUL, MN
8 P.M. TONIGHT
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: CD 102.5 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
No team generated more buzz in the offseason than the Minnesota Wild.
Just a few days into the free agency period, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher nailed down the two biggest fish of the available lot: superstar forward Zach Parise and stud defenseman Ryan Suter. Each reportedly received identical 13-year contracts to continue their careers in Minnesota, and when ink hit paper, there were a whole lot of prognosticators buying the Wild's stock and selling high.
Minnesota wasn't signing a pair of big-name free agents simply for the heck of it, either; the strong nucleus of young players mixed with veteran mainstays made the Wild an intriguing destination for both Parise and Suter, and the guess was that they would fit seamlessly into a team that just seemed to fit them. So far, so good for the Wild and their new additions: Parise has added some serious offensive clout to Minnesota's top line with Mikko Koivu at center and Dany Heatley on left wing.
Known for scoring goals in bunches, Parise is already off to a hot start with the Wild. He leads the team with five goals and nine points in the first five games, and Minnesota coach Mike Yeo is giving him as many minutes as he possibly can. Whenever Parise is on the ice, something good seems to happen, and the Wild wants its top line logging big minutes with its game-breaking potential.
There's scoring support for the No. 1 unit, as well; the Wild have talented rookie Mikael Granlund in the NHL this year and he's got a very bright future ahead of him. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Cal Clutterbuck are players who can contribute offensively and play a variety of roles, which gives Yeo a lot of options at both even strength and on special teams.
On the blue line, Suter wasn't the only recent acquisition to bolster the Minnesota defense. Fletcher dealt veteran Nick Schultz to Edmonton near the trade deadline and got Tom Gilbert in return, adding a right-shot defenseman who can be an effective player on both sides of the puck. Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Justin Falk round out what's predominantly a youthful Wild defense corps, but one with plenty of upside.
Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom form the last line of defense for Minnesota, and it's a heated competition for playing time. Harding signed a new three-year deal over the summer and with Backstrom's contract nearing its end, both guys have a lot of incentive to perform.
- The Blue Jackets went 3-for-4 on the penalty kill on Monday vs. Dallas, remaining fourth-best in the NHL (20-for-23, 87%) for the season.
- Columbus dished out 21 hits in Monday’s win to move into sole possession of third place in the league with 153 on the year (Flyers & Bruins – 155).
- Vinny Prospal’s game-winning goal last night was his second tally of the season, tying him with Artem Anisimov for the team lead. Prospal’s goal gives him 33 game-winners for his career, pulling him to within one of Robert Lang, Radim Vrbata and Robert Reichel for 11th place all-time in NHL history amongst Czech-born players.
RIGHT WING | #11
2012-13 STATS: 5-4-9, 5 GP
Parise was the marquee pickup for the Wild, and at age 28, there are still plenty of productive years ahead of the American-born forward. He's a four-time 30-goal scorer in the NHL and put up eight goals and 15 points in 24 playoff games with New Jersey last spring. Parise, a native of Minneapolis, is also a decorated international player and represented Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
COLUMBUS: Cam Atkinson(lower body), IR retroactive to Jan. 23
READ: Aftermath: Dallas
READ: Desperation delivered a big win
READ: Post Game: Dallas
READ: Jackets place Atkinson on IR