In an 82-game season, every National Hockey League team will have to deal with injuries at some point. Without its leading scorer, Zach Parise
, Minnesota Wild will be put to the test tonight as the team kicks off a three-game road trip against the Ottawa Senators.
Parise left Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and after seeing doctors yesterday was diagnosed with a concussion. He didn’t travel with the team and there is no timetable on his return.
“Obviously, a big blow to us,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “It came on during the course of the game; luckily he was talking to our trainers and our trainers took the appropriate steps to meet with the doctors.”
In Parise’s absence, Thomas Vanek will move to the wing with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Vanek and Pominville have experience playing together as members of the Buffalo Sabres and hope to rekindle the chemistry they had there.
“We’ll see, it’s been a couple years since we’ve done it together,” Vanek said. “Usually, when you have chemistry with one guy it tends to come back fairly quickly. I feel like I know his game almost better than I know my own.
“It’ll be fun to be on the same line as him, maybe a little strange at first.”
Yeo hopes putting him on a line with Pominville and a playmaker like Granlund will give him some stability after bouncing around in his early going with Minnesota.
“He’s been brought here to produce offense, and he’s certainly been doing that as of late, more in the assist column than in the goal column,” Yeo said. “Now playing on a line with Pommer, a guy who he has chemistry with, and Granlund, a guy who’s smart and very offensive minded, we like to think that could be a line that can help us contribute offensively.”
Minnesota has dealt with injury adversity in the past. Last season, injuries could’ve submarined the Wild’s season with Parise and Mikko Koivu out, but the team rallied to four-straight wins to start the New Year. The club hopes to get that kind of effort tonight to start its roadie.
With Parise out, other players will have to elevate their play. However, as one of the team’s leaders, his void will be felt both on and off the ice.
“It’s not easy. He’s a tough guy to replace, whether it’s in the room, on the ice, basically in every situation,” Pominville said. “Different guys are going to have to step up.”
The club is still without Matt Cooke, out with a lower-body injury, and Jared Spurgeon, who is on Injured Reserve with an upper-body injury. Both players didn’t travel north with the team.
Backstrom Between the Pipes
Niklas Backstrom will return to the net tonight, looking for his first career win against the Senators. The netminder is 0-1-1 with a 3.64 goals-against average and a .885 save percentage in three career starts against Ottawa. This is his first start since a 4-3 win in Boston on Oct. 28.
“We have to make sure we’re giving him enough games to stay sharp,” Yeo said. “You don’t want a guy sitting around for too long and not getting involved, then you give them an opportunity and they’re not ready for it.”
Brodziak On Board
Kyle Brodziak missed practice yesterday to be with his wife, Nicole, who gave birth to their second child, Leo. Brodziak is en route to Ottawa and is expected to play tonight.