Parise ‘never would’ve predicted’ Devils would miss playoffs three years in a row

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Though they’re not mathematically eliminated yet, the New Jersey Devils won’t make the postseason this year. It’ll mark the organization’s third straight miss, a fact that took their former captain by surprise.

“I never would’ve predicted they’d miss the playoffs three years in a row. Just because of the way things are run,” Minnesota forward Zach Parise said prior to Tuesday’s 6-2 blowout win over the Devils, per the Star-Ledger. “I hope they can pull off something at the end of the year, or next year, and get back in.”

Parise, who spent the first seven years of his career in New Jersey, went to the playoffs six times with the Devils — the only time the Devils missed during the Parise era was the 2010-11 campaign which, not coincidentally, was the year Parise missed 69 games after a torn meniscus in his right knee.

New Jersey’s last playoff appearance, also not coincidentally, was in Parise’s last year with the club, when the Devils lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Los Angeles. The current team barely resembles the one that captured the Eastern Conference crown three years ago; gone are the likes of Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Carter, Petr Sykora, Mark Fayne, Anton Volchenkov and Martin Brodeur.

The club also made a coaching change, firing Peter DeBoer and replacing him with an unconventional three-coach setup comprised of Adam Oates, Scott Stevens and GM Lou Lamoriello.

Lamoriello has been the target of heavy criticism over the last three years, as a number of his veteran acquisitions — Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Martin Havlat, Damien Brunner, Tuomo Ruutu — have failed to pan out.

Parise wasn’t about join the list of Lamoriello critics, however, saying that part of the Devils’ issues could be chalked up to bad luck.

“Guys have good years. Guys have off-years,” he explained. “When you have a group of people having off-years, you might miss the playoffs. If you have a group of people having a great year, you’re in.

“It’s hard to predict.”

Wild storm Hurricanes for fifth straight win

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Since the middle of January, the Minnesota Wild have transformed from a team in despair to a team on a mission. Having superb goaltending helps, and Devan Dubnyk has continued his stellar play since being traded out of Arizona.

On Friday, the Wild managed enough scoring in the third period, despite playing for the second time in as many nights, to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes by a final score of 3-1. Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise scored goals less than two minutes apart in the final period to give Minnesota the lead, which it wouldn’t give up.

The Wild have won five in a row. Since the start of February, Minnesota has lost only three times.

The 28-year-old Dubnyk made 37 saves against the Hurricanes in what was his 23rd consecutive start. His current run is impressive. Then, look over to goals allowed, and he hasn’t conceded more than two goals in a game since Feb. 16. That’s a span of nine games.

The Wild move to 79 points in the Central Division.

Stewart to open with Vanek, Koivu in Minnesota

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Upon acquiring Chris Stewart from Buffalo yesterday, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said the 27-year-old power forward would be able to play up and down the Minnesota lineup.

To start, though, he’ll be near the top.

Stewart will open on a line with Thomas Vanek and Mikko Koivu, head coach Mike Yeo told KFAN radio on Tuesday. The Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line will remain intact, meaning the club’s other new forward — Sean Bergenheim — will play with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle (Bergenheim had debuted on the Koivu-Vanek line.)

It’ll be interesting to see how Stewart fits with his new running mates. It’s clear by both his and Fletcher’s comments that the goal is to provide a physical element and more size; it’s also likely Stewart will be a net-front presence and feed off the offense generated by Vanek (who has nine points in his last 11 games) and Koivu (12 in his last 14.)

“Adding my size and my physicality to that lineup, I think that’s something they’re looking for,” Stewart said, per the Star-Tribune. “I’m a big guy, a power forward, I have some pretty good speed and I like to play a hard-nosed game and get in the corners there and on the forecheck and create turnovers.

“It’s going to be a great challenge. I look forward to it.”

Wild’s Parise after loss to Oilers: ‘We’ll be fine’

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It’s a tight playoff race in the Western Conference, with every point crucial.

Nothing is ever guaranteed, but the Minnesota Wild had as good an opportunity as ever to move three points up on the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks for the final Wild Card spot. Only problem is the Edmonton Oilers, intent on playing the role of spoiler.

Minus the first period, the Wild controlled the play. Minnesota outshot Edmonton by a wide margin through the final periods, but couldn’t find that one necessary goal to at least squeak out a single point.

The Wild surrendered only 10 shots on goal through the final 40 minutes but lost to the Oilers, the last-place team in the West, 2-1 on Tuesday.

“We’re going to lose again before the season ends. Tonight, one bad period cost us the game. We’ll be fine,” said the Wild’s Zach Parise, as per Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press.

Apologies for stating the obvious, but it’s not a desired result. That’s where a break on the out-of-town scoreboard comes into the conversation. The Flames lost to the New York Rangers on Tuesday and the Sharks were not in action.

The Wild drop to 7-2-1 in its last 10 games. Despite this setback, Minnesota still has aspirations of the post-season and added a piece to its roster just for that goal.

Earlier in the day, the Wild acquired forward Sean Bergenheim from Florida. The NHL’s trade deadline is next Monday. He’s a veteran and his experience appears to be a valuable asset for the Wild.

“The sooner the better,” Minnesota’s GM Chuck Fletcher told reporters. “No sense waiting until the deadline.

“Simply looking for a guy with some experience, looking for depth. Right now, we have three forwards out and playing with 12 guys up front that are playing pretty well for us but if you get one or two more injuries, we’ll start to really need to get into issues.”

Putting Wild in wild card: Minnesota topples Dallas late

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It’s almost hard to believe that the Dallas Stars had a 1-0 lead against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. Things changed sharply in the third period, as the Wild crushed Dallas 6-2 overall to keep their red-hot run alive.

As much as this hot streak revolves around acquiring Devan Dubnyk, this game was largely about guys who’ve been in Minnesota a little longer.

Zach Parise (two goals) and Mikael Granlund (one goal, two assists) probably stood out the most as the Wild scored six goals in the third period, the most of any team in the NHL so far this season.

Here’s video of those six Minnesota goals:

Minnesota on a mission

The numbers all smile for the Wild, as they’ve won six in a row at home. They’ve come a long way since falling below .500 (18-19-5) following a dispiriting 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 13.

This win places the Wild eight overall for at least the moment:

7. Winnipeg – 71 points in 61 games played (24 regulation/OT wins)
8. Minnesota: 69 points in 59 GP (29 ROW)

9. Calgary: 68 points in 59 GP (29 ROW)
10. San Jose: 68 points in 61 GP (28 ROW)

Stars falling

Dallas is now starting to lag behind the pack with 63 points in 60 games played. They’ve now lost three games in a row and four of their last five, a stretch that might just be deadly for a Stars team that really needs an epic run to make it to the playoffs (after doing something similar last season).

For much of this game, it seemed like these two teams were evenly matched. That changed in a stark way in the almost-brutal final 20 minutes, though.