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Zach Parise, Ryan Ellis set to make season debuts tonight


skates against the Minnesota Wild at the Prudential Center on March 17, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Wild 7-4.

Bruce Bennett

Two prominent Western Conference players are set to make their season debuts on Tuesday night as Zach Parise and Ryan Ellis will be returning to the lineup for their respective teams.

Let’s start with Parise, because his return could potentially make the biggest impact out of the two just based on where the Minnesota Wild are in the standings.

Parise has missed the Wild’s first 39 games this season as he recovered from back surgery. Tuesday will be his first NHL game in eight months and it comes as the Wild are in a fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Wild enter Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers -- a Panthers team that has won five in a row, by the way -- just one point back of a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference even though they have been without Parise for the entire season and have missed Nino Niederreiter for 10 games.

Parise may not be the player that he was during his peak years with the New Jersey Devils, but he is still a top-line player that can score at a 50-60 point pace over 82 games. That is going to be a big addition to the lineup, even if he is limited in the early going.
[Wild could really use Parise right now]

While the Wild are getting one of their top forwards back for a playoff push, one of the NHL’s top teams and top Stanley Cup contenders is getting a key part of its defense back when Ellis makes his season debut for the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ellis has been sidelined all season as he recovers from offseason knee surgery.

The foundation of the Predators’ success has been their defense that is led by what is arguably the best top-four in the league with P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ellis. Even without Ellis -- who played 23 minutes per game a season ago -- the Predators are still one of the best teams in the NHL and enter Tuesday night looking like one of the top Stanley Cup contenders in the league once again. They are also still one of the top teams in the league when it comes to keeping the puck out of the net.

With Ellis back in the lineup that defense will only get better.

Ellis’ return also comes at a good time as the Predators just lost one of their top forwards, Filip Forsberg, to an injury.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.