The Minnesota Wild have remained consistent defensively while looking for something to put them over the top in their opponents' zone.
Heading into Thursday night's home game against Philadelphia, Zach Parise is hinting at providing that with the Wild coming off their highest-scoring effort in nine games, while the Flyers have parted ways with a former impact forward.
Parise scored three goals in Wednesday's 4-2 win in Columbus as the Wild (21-11-7) wrapped up a 2-1-1 road trip. They're still averaging 2.33 goals in the last nine, going 1 for 19 on the power play, after scoring 2.80 per game in their first 30.
Parise had managed just two assists in his previous six games but now has a team-high 14 goals despite missing nine games in November. He's been limited to an assist in his last four against Philadelphia.
"I feel like the last few games, his game has really been coming," coach Mike Yeo said. "He didn't score last game, but I think he needed a game like that."
Part of it might be growing accustomed to playing with a knee brace, and that adjustment period seems to have passed.
"I forgot about it," Parise told the team's official website after the hat trick.
However, the status of another top forward is now in question. Mikko Koivu left the game in the first two minutes after a crash into the boards and was taken to the hospital with an apparent upper-body injury. The center leads the team with 32 points.
Any absence could be manageable if Minnesota is able to keep it up defensively. The Wild have given up 12 goals over a 4-2-1 span and are giving up a Western Conference-low 1.76 per game since the start of December.
All-Star goaltender Devan Dubnyk has started 12 of those 17 games, posting a 1.83 goals-against average. He's been particularly good in Minnesota's last five, going 3-1-1 with a 1.59 GAA and .948 save percentage after stopping 29 shots Wednesday.
The Wild and Flyers have split four games over the past two seasons - Vincent Lecavalier's first two in Philadelphia - but the Flyers have finally parted ways with the center. Lecavalier, known best for a storied career with Tampa Bay, was dealt to Los Angeles on Wednesday along with defenseman Luke Schenn for center Jordan Weal and a third-round pick. Lecavalier has been a healthy scratch for most of the season for a Flyers team which is scoring an East-low 2.16 goals per game.
Weal, a third-round pick in 2010, is without a point in 10 games of his first NHL season. The 23-year-old had 69 points in 73 games last season for AHL Manchester, which won the Calder Cup with Weal as postseason MVP.
Philadelphia (16-15-7) is coming off Wednesday's 4-3 home win over Montreal with Brayden Schenn scoring for a second straight game and adding two assists.
The victory followed a winless three-game West Coast road swing.
"I think we had a little bit of fire in our belly tonight," winger Ryan White said. "It was a tough trip, we didn't get any points and we need to start cleaning them up here at home."
Some road points would also be useful. The Flyers are on a season-worst 0-4-1 skid on the road with eight goals scored.