The Minnesota Wild have been on quite the run recently winning 10 in a row and earning points in all 11 games they’ve played in the month of December. They put that streak on the line tonight when the Wild travel to Nashville to play the Predators. But as Mike Russo of the Star Tribune reports, boosting Minnesota’s chances to extend their streak is the return of forwards Erik Haula, who missed three games with a hip injury, and Zach Parise, who was out for two games with strep throat.
Strep throat has become an all too common occurrence for Parise as he’s come down with the condition four times since the World Cup tournament. Parise considered having his tonsils removed to prevent an additional recurrence but was told by doctors that the surgery would “sideline him for a bit,” as Russo notes. The repeated illnesses have likely contributed to a lackluster start to the season as Parise has registered just five goals in 24 contests, though he seemed to be heating up with four points in the five games prior to coming out of the lineup.
Haula’s return is also a welcome one for the Wild. Minnesota bench boss Bruce Boudreau is glad to be able to slot the 25-year-old back into his usual third-line pivot role.
“Centers a very difficult position up front,” Boudreau said. “[Haula’s] probably going to be a little rusty. Grao played pretty good for us, and now he’s the fourth-line center, so it gives you more things to do if people aren’t going.”
Haula has contributed five goals and 10 points in 23 games while averaging 14:13 of ice time per game. He set career highs in goals and assists last season with 14 and 20 respectively while leading the club in plus-minus with a +21 rating.
Elsewhere in the Central Division:
- Semyon Varlamov’s troublesome groin is once again keeping the Avalanche’s starting goalie sidelined, according to Terry Frei of The Denver Post. Frei notes that this will be the third stretch of games Varlamov has missed due to the groin and also a wrist ailment. Calvin Pickard, who earned the win in Colorado’s 2 – 1 victory over Chicago Friday night, will be between the pipes against Calgary tonight and Jeremy Smith was recalled from San Antonio to serve as the backup. Smith, 27, has never appeared in an NHL game but has spent eight seasons in the minors, primarily in the AHL, in the Nashville, Boston, Minnesota and now the Colorado organizations. Spencer Martin was up with the team last week but was left in the AHL in order to get some game action.