NEW YORK –
It's been four years since Zach Parise
and two years since Ryan Carter
played their home games in the tri-state area, but the luster and allure of skating in one of the world's most iconic arenas hasn't waned.
"It's a really fun building to play in," Parise said. "I've played in a lot of fun, important games here, and a lot of good memories from playing here. Whether you come here once a year or three, four times a year, it's fun to play."
Parise, Carter and the Minnesota Wild will play the New York Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, looking to snap out of a skid that has seen Minnesota go 3-8-3 in its past 14 games.
And a Thursday date in a venue like the Garden won't do anything to lessen the intensity or urgency the Wild is currently managing.
Seeing the Rangers sweater also conjures up old memories for Parise.
"It's still there a little bit," Parise said. "We had some really good games, some fun games, and a great playoff series with them."
As a visiting player at Madison Square Garden, Parise has six goals and eight assists in 24 regular season games, and three goals and four assists in seven playoff games.
"That's kind of the way you're brought up – for me, it was Devils-Rangers, and that part of you never really leaves," Parise said.
It was in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final that Parise, Carter, and the New Jersey Devils eliminated the President's Trophy-winning Rangers, 4-2. In Game 5, in New York, Carter scored the game-winning goal with 4:24 remaining in regulation to bring the Devils within a victory of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
"That playoff series amplified my liking for playing in this building, and against this team," Carter said. "But on top of it, it's Madison Square Garden, the most famous arena in the world, so I don't know that it needed that."
It's just another game on the schedule, as the mantra goes for any NHL player, although with the parity in the Western Conference standings, the Wild's current footing, and 32 games remaining for Minnesota, no time is more important than the present.
And for Parise and Carter, the game's setting will also raise the stakes.
"It's another game, but it's not another game in the sense that we're running out of time to find our game," Carter said. "No better place than here, and time than now, as cliché as that is. If we lose it's not the end-all, be-all, but it's a chance for us to get going in the right direction, and something that is very important for us."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Nino Niederreiter – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Jarret Stoll – Jason Zucker
Ryan Carter – Erik Haula – Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Marco Scandella – Nate Prosser