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Parise returns to New Jersey as Wild visit Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

WILD (36-23-10) at DEVILS (29-27-13)


Last 10: Minnesota 5-2-3; New Jersey 5-5-0

Season series: This is the second and final regular-season game between the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils. The Wild received goals by Mikael Granlund, Torrey Mitchell, Dany Heatley and Jason Pominville in a 4-0 victory at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 3.

Big story: The game will mark the return of former Devils forward Zach Parise to New Jersey for the first time since signing a 13-year contract with the Wild as an unrestricted free agent on July 4, 2012. Parise spent seven seasons with the Devils and served as captain for the team in 2011-12 when the Devils reached the Stanley Cup Final but lost a six-game series to the Los Angeles Kings. Parise had an assist and took three shots on goal in the win earlier this season.

"I've been excited to come back here to play, but it was one of those things, you look at the schedule in October and you're like, 'Ah, we're not going there until March, I've got a lot of time until then,'" Parise told Wednesday night. "... It really snuck up on me, but I've been looking forward to it. It's going to be fun."

Team Scope:

Wild: Coach Mike Yeo tinkered with his bottom three lines against the New York Islanders on Tuesday and it paid dividends in a 6-0 victory. The Wild scored more than three goals for the first time in 13 games and received production from the top three lines in the process.

Yeo kept intact his top line of Granlund centering Parise and Pominville, but moved Justin Fontaine to the second line with Matt Moulson and Mikko Koivu. Moulson scored twice, Fontaine had a goal and an assist and Koivu had three assists to pass Marian Gaborik as the Wild's all-time scoring leader with 438 points. Yeo also moved Charlie Coyle from right wing to third-line center with Heatley and Nino Niederreiter. Kyle Brodziak was between Matt Cooke and Cody McCormick on the fourth line.

The win was especially sweet for Moulson, the former Islander, in his return to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

"I was here for a long time and this team had a big place in my heart," Moulson said. "The fans are great supporters. It was pretty emotional."

Devils: Players believe the team needs to win at least 10 of the last 13 games of the season in order to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Coach Peter DeBoer was noticeably upset after the 4-2 loss against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins on home ice Tuesday. The Devils failed to take advantage of a Bruins team that had played the previous night (a 4-1 win against the Wild) and lost their third straight game.

"It's discouraging," DeBoer said. "I don't have many words for it right now. You make your bed in this League and the teams that earn their way into the playoffs get there, and right now we're not giving ourselves a chance to earn one of those spots."

Goalie Martin Brodeur, who lost his second straight game, was also upset with the Devils' play.

"It's one thing to lose," Brodeur said. "In the middle of the season, we were losing, but we were playing well. This, we're beating ourselves now. Teams are not beating us and that's what’s the most disappointing thing about what's going on, this losing streak. Our effort is just not at the right point for the urgency that we need to make that push toward the playoffs."

Who's hot: Minnesota's line of Parise-Granlund-Pominville has combined for 15 goals and 40 points in the past 14 games. … New Jersey forward Patrik Elias has four goals and 12 points in 10 games since his return from the Olympic break.

Injury report: The Wild are without wing Jason Zucker (knee surgery), and goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding (illness) are on injured reserve. … Devils wing Ryan Carter (upper body) is day-to-day. senior writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report.

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