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Parise returning to Wild lineup vs. Blackhawks

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise will return to the lineup Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks after missing 14 games with a fractured left foot.

Parise, who has been skating with teammates for several days, on Wednesday completed his second full-contact practice, a key step in getting back to the lineup. Wild coach Mike Yeo said then it would be up to Parise after the morning skate Thursday to decide whether he'd play against Chicago.

"Felt good again this morning so I think we're going to give it a shot," Parise said. "It's tough when you're watching games from the press box so I'm looking forward to it."

"We had a pretty good feeling he would be [back in the lineup] yesterday as long as he felt good again this morning," Yeo said. "Obviously we're very excited to have him back."

Parise originally sustained the injury Nov. 25 in a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues when he blocked an Alexander Steen slap shot. Expected to miss 3-4 weeks at the time of the injury, Parise missed one game. He played in the Wild's next 12 games before the team shut him down so he could fully heal.

"I feel much better than I did after when I got hit and played," Parise said. "It's night and day how much better I feel. That's a good sign. It still hurts a little bit at times, it gets sore after [skating]. But it feels much better than it did before."

Despite missing a total of 15 games this season Parise ranks second on the Wild with 15 goals. He is expected to begin the game on a line with center Charlie Coyle and forward Nino Niederreiter, although Yeo said nothing is set in stone.

"You add a player to your top line and there's going to be a trickle-down effect," Yeo said. "One of our challenges will be to re-establish chemistry quickly. I hope that line finishes the game that way, but at the same time we have a Plan B and a Plan C in our pocket in case we feel it's not working out the way we want."

The Wild went 7-7-0 while Parise was out but are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games. Minnesota leads the Phoenix Coyotes by four points for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, although the Coyotes have two games in hand.

"Seven of 10 is always a good run," Parise said. "They've been playing really well, getting really good goaltending and getting timely goals. Hopefully we can keep that going forward because we're going to play a tough few games coming up here."

The game Thursday against Chicago begins a crucial four-game stretch for Minnesota against some of the best the West has to offer. The Wild head to California next for games against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday and the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche next Thursday.

Chicago, coming off a 5-4 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, did not skate Thursday.

Here are the projected lineups for the Wild and Blackhawks:


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Brandon Saad - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Michal Handzus - Kris Versteeg

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michael Kostka

Antti Raanta

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank

Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (rotator cuff surgery)


Zach Parise - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Dany Heatley - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Jason Zucker - Erik Haula - Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Keith Ballard - Clayton Stoner

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Stephane Veilleux

Injured: Mikko Koivu (fractured ankle), Jared Spurgeon (foot), Josh Harding (illness)

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