Niklas Backstrom will make his third start of the season tonight when the Wild visits the Ottawa Senators (6:30 p.m. CT, FSN, KFAN). I'll be on FSN's pregame show at 6 p.m. and during the first intermission.
Wild leading scorer Zach Parise has been diagnosed with a concussion, coach Mike Yeo confirmed this morning.
Not a surprise since Parise looked off his last few shifts against the Pittsburgh Penguins and suddenly didn't come out for the third period even though there was no clear incident to draw from.
According to a few people in the know, Parise did have lingering effects from the stick to the face he got in New York five games ago Oct. 27. He played through it though (quite well, too, against Boston and Dallas especially) because he wasn't sure he had a concussion. Finally, trainers got involved Tuesday night.
Whatever symptoms Parise had were exasperated bigtime with three checks he took against Pittsburgh, folks say. On his first shift, he was bowled over from behind by Roberto Bortuzzo. That definitely seemed to jar him and catch him off guard. In the second period, he got bumped off his skates in the d-zone by Blake Comeau on that shift that ended up 5:44 in with a Comeau penalty and then late in the period Parise got checked into the boards/glass by Kris Letang.
His last shift of the second, you can almost tell something was up when you watch it over on video. He sprinted in the corner to hound the puck and just didn't seem right when he skated back to the net.
There's no timetable for his return. I'm told Parise doesn't think this will be long-term. Coach Mike Yeo didn't want to guess if there's a chance he could play Tuesday in New Jersey, a game you know Parise would badly want to play. Yeo said when the Wild returns to the Twin Cities for a day-and-a-half after the Montreal game, the Wild will talk to the doctors and see from there.
"I just know something came on during the course of the game and luckily he was talking to our trainers and the trainers took the appropriate steps to make sure he met with the doctors. It's a tough blow," Yeo said.
Thomas Vanek, who has four shots in the past seven games and only one goal this season, will get a line with the team's best playmaker Mikael Granlund and his former Buffalo Sabres linemate Jason Pominville.
"It's important for guys like myself to step up in his absence and score some goals and get some wins for our team," Vanek said.
On playing with Pominville, Vanek said, "I feel like I know his game almost better than my own. It will be fun to be on the same line again with him, maybe a little strange at first, but I'm excited with it."
On his play: "Anytime you join a new team, you want to prove yourself because what you've done in the past doesn't matter. I'm still trying to find my niche here. I feel like I'm creating good chances for my teammates, but for myself, I don't think I've shot the puck enough or created enough on my own. I have to get going on that category."
Backstrom is 1-1 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .885 save percentage, winning his first game since Jan. 9 on Oct. 28 in Boston. The Senators are the only team in the NHL (other than the Wild, of course) Backstrom has not beaten. He is 0-1-1 in three starts vs. the Senators with a 3.64 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.
Craig Anderson will start for Ottawa. Chris Phillips is out.
Kyle Brodziak's wife had their second child yesterday, Leo Dino Brodziak. Brodziak is currently on a plane flying to Ottawa and is expected to play tonight.