Zach Parise is having a sneaky-good season for Wild

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Tuesday night’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

If you ask a random hockey fan how they feel about Zach Parise, you might hear terms like “washed up” in response. That’s not really fair to the Minnesota Wild winger who’s proving he has quite a bit left in the tank, but it’s understandable why some might make such assumptions.

[Preview for Wild – Predators]

For one thing, Parise has a scary contract. There’s no denying that it’s frightening to imagine how poorly this can go for a 34-year-old carrying a $7.538 million cap hit through 2024-25.

It doesn’t help matters that injuries have been an issue for Parise, too. He was limited to just 42 games in 2017-18 after back surgery, and missed at least eight games each season since 2013-14.

Parise’s likely being dismissed thanks to a combination of those injuries, that contract, and the Wild being unable to get over the hump from good to great. Yet, it turns out, Parise’s actually been looking a lot more like the player who once made a 13-year contract sounded like a pretty smart idea.

So far in 2018-19, Parise’s appeared in 64 games, missing only two of the Wild’s contests.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

He’s not just showing up, either. Parise’s generated 24 goals and 54 points this season. That .84 point-per-game clip actually matches his average from one of his later Devils seasons (2011-12), and ties his best marks so far with the Wild (interestingly, he hit .84 points per game in 2013-14 and 2014-15, too).

The veteran forward leads the Wild in goals and points, while checking out in the sort of analytics-friendly ways that become tougher and tougher to dominate as players grow older. Consider, for instance, his high placement according to Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement, arranged in this chart by The Athletic’s Sean Tierney:

Players like Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr have really set a high bar for ageless hockey, but this remains pretty remarkable work by Parise. After seeing his ice time sink a bit during the previous two seasons, he’s averaging 18:42 TOI per game, not far from his Minnesota average of 19 minutes (with some shorthanded time included).

As you can see from Tuesday’s Playoff Push, the Wild would hold a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if they began today, but the margin of error is excruciatingly small.

The Wild have needed every bit of effort from veterans such as Parise and his pal Ryan Suter, particularly after Minnesota decided to roll with a not-quite-rebuild by moving out more proven scorers for younger players.

Parise’s effectiveness isn’t as in-your-face as it once was when he was mercilessly forechecking opponents during his Devils’ peak, but his resurgence has been inspiring nonetheless. The Predators and other opponents would be wise not to count Parise out just yet.

2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion and Nashville Predators fan Josef Newgarden will be an ‘Inside-the-Glass’ guest tonight during the first period of Wild-Predators. He will join Pierre McGuire and John Walton (play-by-play), who will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick.

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NBC Sports will take fans inside the sounds and passion of hockey with a one-hour special – “Wired: Stadium Series – Penguins vs. Flyers” – that will utilize audio from players, coaches and referees from the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on NBC. It airs March 5 at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN here.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Wild clinch, Duchene hits 200, Burakovsky’s filthy goal

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Players of the Night:

Devan Dubnyk and Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild: Two goals by Parise and 22 saves by Dubnyk helped the Wild to a 3-0 shutout win against the Edmonton Oilers. The win was huge for the Wild, with both the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche losing. Minnesota is now five points clear of the Avalanche and six clear of the Blues in the race for third place in the Central Division.

William Nylander and Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs: Both Nylander and Matthews recorded three-point nights — each had two goals and an assist — as the Leafs trounced the Buffalo Sabres 5-2.

Matt Duchene and Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators: The Senators lost 6-5 in a goal-fest against the Winnipeg Jets. Like Nylander and Matthews for Toronto, both Senators listed here had two goals and an assist each. Duchene’s two markers brought him to the 200-goal milestone for his career.

Highlights of the Night:

This is unfair:

Even with no fans to witness it, this was a great goal:

Luongo knows:

What could it mean?

The face you make when you snap a 19-game goal-scoring drought:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 5, Sabres 2

Jets 6, Senators 5

Panthers 3, Hurricanes 2

Capitals 4, Blues 2

Wild 3, Oilers 0

Kings 3, Avalanche 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Back surgery will keep Zach Parise sidelined 8-10 weeks

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As Mike Russo of the Athletic reported on Monday, Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild underwent microdiscectomy surgery and is expected to miss the next 8-10 weeks.

Parise’s back has caused him plenty of issues in the past. A herniated disc forced him to miss the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and then the issue returned just before training camp in September. He’s yet to play a game this season.

According to Russo, Parise’s experienced pain in one of his legs and not his back, which led to Tuesday’s surgery. The procedure relieves pressure on the nerve and will keep him off the ice for a month before he can resume skating.

After starting his career with great health in seven of his first NHL seasons, the injury bug has bit Parise since the 2013-14 campaign. From 2013-14 through last season, the 33-year-old forward has missed 48 regular season games.

Parise, who signed a 13-year, $98 million contract in 2012, still has six years left on his deal after this season which carries a $7,538,462 million cap hit.

In bright news for the Wild, as Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter remain out injured, they’ll likely get Mikael Granlund back for Tuesday night’s game against the Canucks as they start a six-game homestand. Granlund skated on Monday with his regular linemates, Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu, after sitting out five games with a groin injury. It’s been an uneven start for Minnesota, who stand 2-2-2 in the Central Division and are hoping to resume winning ways once they get fully healthy.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

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After unveiling the top 10 goaltenders for the upcoming video game NHL 16, EA Sports has done the same for every other position.

As was the case last season, Sidney Crosby has the highest overall rating at 96, but there are some alterations after that. In 2015, Steven Stamkos ranked second overall with a 93 rating and he kept that rating for 2015-16, but he’s been leapfrogged by Jonathan Toews (94), Shea Weber (94), and Carey Price (94).

Pavel Datsyuk (93) and John Tavares (92) round out the top-five among centers. Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have two players in the top-10 with Henrik Zetterberg (92) and Evgeni Malkin (92) securing eighth and sixth place respectively.

As previously established, Weber leads the pack among defensemen and is followed by Duncan Keith (93), Drew Doughty (93), Ryan Suter (93), and Erik Karlsson (91). Nashville is the only team with two defensemen in the top-10 as Roman Josi (90) ranks ninth.

When it comes to right wingers, Corey Perry (92) got the top position, although he’s closely followed by Patrick Kane (92). Vladimir Tarasenko (91), Jakub Voracek (90), and Marian Hossa (90) make up the remainder of the top-five. Phil Kessel, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh over the summer, saw his rating slip from 90 in 2014-15 to 89 following a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to left wingers, it won’t surprise many to learn that Alex Ovechkin secured the top rating at 93. He’s followed by Jamie Benn (92), Taylor Hall (90), Zach Parise (90), and Max Pacioretty (89). The Dallas Stars’ acquisition of Patrick Sharp means that they now have two players in the top-10 as Sharp took the final place on that list with his 89 rating.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe. If you want to see each position’s top-10 list, you can view them here.

Poll: Will Minnesota’s power play improve this season?

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The Wild’s power play was so bad last season that, at one point, Zach Parise had to ask fans to stop booing the club when they had the man advantage.

Minnesota’s power play was clicking at just 15.8 efficiency at the end of the regular season – good for 27th overall.

Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek finished second and third in points behind Parise, but both struggled in man advantage situations. Vanek scored just five of his 21 goals with the man advantage – his fewest in a season. Pominville scored three goals on the power play – his lowest full-season total since his rookie campaign (2005-06).

Speaking with Mackey and Judd on ESPN radio in Minnesota last week, Wild head coach Mike Yeo said his coaching staff has spent part of the offseason working on improving the team’s power play.

“We’ve spent a lot of time for sure, between (assistant coach) Andrew Brunette and myself, looking at different schemes (and) tactics that we can try to get the players a better chance to have success with,” Yeo said. “I think it’s got to be a personnel thing, just in terms of the combinations that we use and how we deploy them, probably a 1A, 1B. Making sure those two groups have competition against each other. I think in a lot of ways, for us, it’s a mentality (and) it’s a philosophy.”

According to Yeo, there’s one area of the power play that needs improvement on last season.

“We’re a skilled team, but we’re not the most skilled team,” said Yeo. “Most successful power plays around the league are still shooting power plays and the most successful power plays have the best net-front (presence). I think of all the areas, I think our net-front has probably been the worst part of our power play. That’s an area we have to improve.”

OK, time to vote: