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Wild return home to host Blackhawks

by John Kreiser

BLACKHAWKS (32-8-12) at WILD (27-20-5)


Last 10: Chicago 4-1-5; Minnesota 7-3-0

Season series: It's the fourth of five games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild; they don't meet again until April 3. Minnesota has won two of the first three, including a 4-3 victory in the most recent meeting on Dec. 5.

Big story: The Wild could get a big boost to their hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs; top-line left wing Zach Parise took part in all aspects of practice on Wednesday and appeared ready to return after missing 14 games due to a foot injury. Parise's return would be a boon to a team that's hanging on to the final playoff berth in the Western Conference and coming off a 4-0 road loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago started its game against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday looking like it would blow out its longtime rival. But after racing to a quick 2-0 lead, the Blackhawks allowed the Red Wings to tie the game before the first period ended. Chicago needed a third-period goal by Marcus Kruger to force overtime and wound up with a 4-3 shootout loss. It was the League-high 12th time the Blackhawks have had to settle for a single point, but this was a game coach Joel Quenneville didn't feel his team deserved to win.

"We weren't very good tonight," Quenneville said. "They worked hard. They were the harder-working team and getting ourselves a point out of there, with a chance for two in the shootout, certainly we'll take a point because we didn't play well enough or hard enough."

Wild: Parise and coach Mike Yeo said a decision will be made after the morning skate.

"The plan was to get him involved, full duty in practice and see how he responds to that," Yeo told the media 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."

If Parise can return, Yeo wants to make sure expectations don't get too high.

"I think we have to be fair with our expectations just like any player that comes back," Yeo said. "Obviously we're going to expect great things from him but we have to recognize that he's been off for a long time. It takes some time to get the timing back. … I just think we have to give him a fair chance to get into the game and get comfortable."

Who's hot: Marian Hossa scored for Chicago on Wednesday; he four goals in the Blackhawks' past three games and five in the past five. … Third-string goaltender Darcy Kuemper is 3-2-0 in his past five games but has allowed 10 goals on 147 shots.

Injury report: The Blackhawks are healthy except for backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (season-ending shoulder surgery). … Even if Parise returns, the Wild are missing center Mikko Koivu (ankle surgery) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (foot). Goaltenders Niklas Backstrom (lower body) and Josh Harding (illness) are day-to-day; neither dressed for the game in Dallas.

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