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Wild's Parise set to face Devils for first time

by Mike Battaglino

DEVILS (3-6-4) at WILD (7-4-3)


Last 10: New Jersey 3-5-2; Minnesota 6-3-1

Season series: This is the first of two games. The Minnesota Wild defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Dec. 20, 2011.

Big story: This is the first time former Devils captain Zach Parise will play against them since signing with the Wild as a free agent on July 4, 2012.

"It will be really weird, I think," Parise told "You play with those guys for so long. I'm still good friends with a lot of the guys and I keep in touch with a lot of them."

Minnesota was one of four NHL teams that did not play Saturday. New Jersey lost 1-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.

Team Scope:

Devils: Parise's closest friend on the Devils was Travis Zajac, who did not play Saturday and will not Sunday after injuring his ankle in practice Friday.

"It's obviously more of a big deal for him than for us," Zajac told Star-Ledger reporter Rich Chere. "I don't know what he's thinking or how he feels about playing some of his friends, but you see it all the time nowadays, so he's just another player on the ice, just another guy you're up against."

The Devils will also be without forward Patrik Elias, who was scratched Saturday after warm-ups with an upper-body injury. Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson filled in; they have four goals in their past 115 games combined over two-plus seasons.

"Obviously Zajac, [Ryane] Clowe, Elias, those type of guys being out of your lineup don't help, but we have to find a way with the group we have in there to get the job done," coach Peter DeBoer said. "You can't win if you can't get a goal."

The Devils activated Cory Schneider off injured reserve Sunday morning. He will start against Minnesota according to the Bergen Record.

Wild: Parise has six goals and four assists in 14 games, after scoring 18 goals with 20 assists in 48 games during his first season with Minnesota.

"It's just a lot easier this year," Parise told "Last year was a pretty weird year with everything that went on, on top of going to a new team. So now everything is a little more settled in and I'm way more comfortable with the surroundings and stuff. It's been a lot better."

That 0.77 points per game is slightly below the 0.82 he averaged in 502 regular-season games with New Jersey (194 goals, 216 assists).

Parise, playing up front with Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, among others, helped the Devils reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games. Without him last year, New Jersey did not reach the playoffs, and this season got off to a slow start without Kovalchuk and Clarkson.

"But it feels like it doesn't matter who they lose, as a team they're always right there in the thick of things," Parise told "[General manager Lou Lamoriello] does a really good job of putting together a roster every year that always gets ruled out at the beginning of the year and then at the end of the year they're always in the mix."

Parise returns to Prudential Center on March 20.

"I think that will be a much bigger deal than when they come here on Sunday," he said. "For me personally, that will be very weird going into that rink and then all of a sudden you're going to the visitor’s locker room. I'm just so comfortable with everything after being there for so long, going down the hall to the other dressing room will be a little different."

Who's hot: Devils forward Jaromir Jagr had a five-game point streak (one goal, six assists) end. … Wild forward Jason Pominville has five goals in the past three games. Forward Mikael Granlund has six assists in the past four games; all 10 of his points are assists. Parise has five points in his past four games.

Injury report: Schneider (lower body) was activated off IR on Sunday. Elias, Zajac, Clowe (head) and defenseman Bryce Salvador (foot) did not play. … Wild forward Michael Rupp (knee) is out.

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