Posted January 18, 2013 on AP on Fox
Nashville_predators_v_4d36
Now that the 113-day NHL lockout is over, the Minnesota Wild can finally showcase their two biggest offseason acquisitions. Whether Zach Parise and Ryan Suter can help the Wild match the preseason Stanley Cup hype - or just lead the club to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons - remains to be seen. The two All-Stars will make their Wild debuts in Saturday night's season opener at home, where they'll meet a Colorado Avalanche team that's looking to end its own postseason drought in 2012-13. Minnesota led the league with a 20-7-3 record Dec. 10, 2011, but went on to finish 12th in the Western Conference at 35-36-11. The Wild haven't been to the playoffs since 2007-08 and have only won two postseason series in their 12-year history, but there is plenty of excitement surrounding the club as it gets set to kick off this abbreviated 48-game season. Minnesota's disheartening final record was due in part to a severe lack of offense. Minus their 11 shootout tallies, the Wild's 166 goals were the fewest in the NHL in a decade. Hopes of that changing are high following the surprising free-agent splash that landed Parise and Suter, who both inked 13-year, $98 million deals July 4. Parise, a Twin Cities native, had 31 goals and 38 assists as New Jersey's captain last season and is expected to skate on a line with Dany Heatley and captain Mikko Koivu. Heatley led the Wild with 24 goals and 53 points in 2011-12. Suter, who spent his first seven seasons with Nashville, will anchor an unproven group of defenseman that includes Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, 18-year-old first-round pick Mathew Dumba and Suter's former college teammate Tom Gilbert, who is expected to play Saturday despite a groin injury. Suter's speed and puck-moving ability should further enhance the offense, as he had a career-high 46 points last season and tied for fourth in the league with 22 power-play assists. Minnesota's 15.1 percent success rate with the man advantage was near the bottom of the league. "This team never needed saviors or anything. They already had great players,'' said Parise, whose father J.P. played for the Minnesota North Stars. "Ryan and I, we think we can make a team better, and that's all we want to do. We want to be pieces to a team we feel is going to be very good, so that's all we're looking at.'' The Avs (41-35-6) will be trying to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2009-10. They dropped out of the playoff picture with six losses in their final seven games and finished seven points out of the eighth spot. "There's no reason we can't be a playoff team," defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "Anything less will be a huge failure.'' The Avs have failed to sign last season's leading scorer Ryan O'Reilly, who inked a two-year deal with KHL team Metallurg Magnitogorsk in December. It's uncertain when, or if, the 21-year-old center will return to coach Joe Sacco's lineup. "We can't worry about who's not here and just who is,'' said fourth-year center Matt Duchene, who signed a two-year contract after playing in just 58 games last season due to knee and ankle injuries. "We're all links in the chain and have to be strong so we can win." Duchene will likely skate on a line with P.A. Parenteau, who had career highs of 49 assists and 67 points for the New York Islanders last season, and the Avs' new captain, Gabriel Landeskog. The 20-year-old Swede, the Calder Trophy winner as top rookie, became the youngest captain in league history in September when he took over the "C" from Milan Hejduk, who returns for a 14th season. "I don't know if I've ever had a captain that young. I guess no one has,'' said Avs defenseman Erik Johnson, who re-signed for four years in the offseason. "But it doesn't change anything. Your captain is usually your best player. He doesn't have to be Mr. Vocal in the locker room - we have a lot of other guys for that. "So (Landeskog) just has to do what he's been doing - being a good hockey player and one of our hardest workers and best players. When he does that, leadership takes care of itself.'' Veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere returns for the Avs after signing a one-year extension in August, and he gives Sacco a capable backup behind likely Saturday starter Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov appeared in 32 games last season and posted a 2.27 GAA - the lowest for a Colorado goaltender since David Aebischer had a 2.09 in 2003-04. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, who signed a three-year, $5.7 million deal during the summer, are back in net for Minnesota, but it's uncertain if Harding's playing time will be impacted this season after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year. Minnesota and Colorado split six games last season, with the Avs winning the last two matchups in St. Paul.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

Parise, Suter start the next 13 years off right

ST. PAUL, Minn. The Minnesota Wild went shopping on the Fourth of July last summer and shocked the NHL by signing the top two free agents, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, to matching 13-year, 98 million contracts. The excitement generated by the signings, which engulfed a state yearning for a winner after four straight years without a playoff appearance, was eventually tempered by the...

Parise, Suter have Wild poised to make noise

Before the NHL lockout began, the story of the summer around the league was Minnesota's surprise signing of top free agents Zach Parise (puh-REE'-see) and Ryan Suter (SOO'-ter). The Wild haven't made the playoffs in four years. But now that the season has been saved, they're eager to see what their new stars can do for a team that started strong in 2011-12 but...

Come watch the Preds play Suter and the Wild with us at Brewhouse South on Tuesday!

Not only is it the first road game of the season for the Nashville Predators, but it’s also the first chance to boo Ryan Suter! The Preds take on the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, January 22, and we want YOU to join us at Brewhouse South in Franklin! Wear all your best Preds and anti-Suter gear and we’ll have prizes to give away! Puck drops at 7:00pm so be sure to be there...

Wild Friday: Counting minutes until Saturday

FRIDAY'S STORY LINES: Excitement. Anticipation. Those were words used frequently in the Wild locker room Friday afternoon. After a 119-day lockout, Wild players are eager to get on the ice for their highly anticipated season opener Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.The offseason acquisitions of top free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise have made the opener an even bigger...

The Wild stars are nice, but…

The Minnesota Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in one of the greatest free agency coups that the state of Minnesota has ever seen. A couple of stars in their sport had chosen, together, to come to Minnesota. There was an immediate enthusiasm, and discussion about how far the duo could take the team. I have bad news for you, though. Parise and Suter are not going to take the...

Todd Cordell: Devils' Stars Shine In 2-1 Win Over The Islanders

No Zach Parise, no problem. The New Jersey Devils opened up a new era without their former captain in fine fashion as they topped the New York Islanders 2-1. Here are some notes on the Devils 2-1 win as well as some prospect updates. - Given the circumstances, things went about as well as they could have for the Devils. That was a big win for them to open the season as not...

Wild 4, Avalanche 2

The Minnesota Wild finally got to unveil their new cast, and Zach Parise and Ryan Suter helped send the crowd home happy. Acquiring these coveted stars has heightened expectations, and the Wild opened this lockout-shortened schedule with a performance to match the hype. Dany Heatley had two power-play goals on assists from Parise, and the offense-enhanced Wild surged into their...

2013 Season Game 2 Preview: Dallas Stars @ Minnesota Wild

Dallas Stars (1-0-0, 2pts) @ Minnesota Wild (1-0-0, 2 pts) 7:00 PM CT Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota (Delving) Into the Wild: Minnesota made the biggest splash in free agency last summer (and was probably a huge reason why the lockout had to happen) with their gigantic signings of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Parise paid off immediately last night as...

Will Preds power play success carry over?

How will the man advantage fare this season without Ryan Suter?

NHL Preview: The Northwest Division

1. The Minnesota Wild via www.hockeyfanland.com Although this division has been dominated by the Canucks in the past, I’m picking the Wild to win because of their offseason acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.  Adding two superstars to play with the likes of Dany Heatly and Mikko Koivu, the Wild have scoring prowess.  I know this is the popular pick and all of that...

Predators ready to chase Stanley Cup once again

Ryan Suter's now in Minnesota and Jordin Tootoo is in Detroit. The Nashville Predators still have captain Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne, and their goals remain unchanged. Stanley Cup or bust. ''We've shown ourselves that we can play against anybody,'' Rinne said. ''And for sure it's going to be a tight schedule, quick season and you have...

Wild's Granlund makes impact in NHL debut

ST. PAUL, Minn. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter weren't the only players making their Minnesota Wild debuts Saturday night. Mikael Granlund, the Finnish sensation who is one of the top prospects in hockey, played his first-ever NHL game and scored his first goal. Granlund, Minnesota's first-round pick in the 2009 draft, is in his first pro season in North America and he had...

Newcomers dazzle for Wild in win over Avalanche

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild's fan base waited six months, through a long summer, and a long lockout, to see their newest players in action. On Saturday, they needed to wait another 20 minutes or so to see them truly perform. After a slow-starting first period, Dany Heatley scored a pair of power play goals -- both of them set up by Zach Parise -- as Minnesota'...

Why Preds can, can’t win Stanley Cup

Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne are superstars on and off the ice, but will the loss of Ryan Suter keep the Preds from contending for the Cup in 2012-13?
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.