5 NHL questions: The possible return of Zach Parise

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

A daily feature that asks five questions about the days NHL games. Will they be answered? (That doesn't count as one of the questions.)

1. Will Zach Parise play, and if so, how effective will he be?

While it was originally reported earlier  this week he would miss 2-3 weeks of action, Parise may be in line to return to action tonight as the Wild play host to the Avalanche. According to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, Parise practiced yesterday and could be in the lineup tonight for Minnesota.

So maybe the diagnosis of 2-3 weeks was on the long end, but after only missing a single game, and being four days removed from the injury, questions will remain as to whether Parise is at 100 percent.

Can Alexander Steen continue to find the back of the net?

Steen became the second-quickest player in Blues history to reach 20 goals (the only faster was some guy named Brett Hull) and Steen is tied for first in goals scored in the NHL this season (with some guy named Alex Ovechkin).

Needless to say, the St. Louis forward is having a breakout season. Steen's career-high for goals scored is only 24, a number he's on pace to at least double. The Blues will travel to the Shark Tank to take on the Pacific Division leaders in San Jose in what should be a great match up. Steen has only been hold without a goal in eight of the 24 games he's played this season, so the odds are in his favor.

Will Tampa Bay continue its success sans Steven Stamkos?

The Lightning were surprising many with their success with Stamkos in the lineup. But when the all-star forward was lost to a broken tibia Nov. 11 against  the Bruins, many wondered if the Lightning could keep winning without him.

In the eight games without its top forward, Tampa Bay has gone 4-3-1. Stamkos is already walking without crutches, and while that doesn't signal an imminent return, it is a welcome sight for the Lightning locker room. Today, the team will face another tough test in Pittsburgh. In each game the Lightning have won or earned a point without the firepower of Stamkos in the lineup, they've held their opponent to two goals or fewer. Doing that against Pittsburgh? Not an easy task.

Can Ilya Bryzgalov continue to enjoy big, humongous success in Edmonton?

Maybe it was only one game, and maybe the universe didn't explode, but it was a big two points and a big shutout in his return to NHL action, as Ilya Bryzgalov blanked Nashville in his first start for the Oilers on Thursday. Edmonton will be right back in action on Friday as they travel to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets.

The Oilers, who have the second-worst record in all of hockey, have enjoyed a little more success of late. The team has won four of its last five, and outscored its opponents 18-3 in those wins. Of course, if Bryzgalov keeps posting shutouts, the universe might explode, and the Oilers will keep finding their way into the win column.

Will Cam Ward continue to play Olympic-level hockey for Carolina?

The race to be the starting goalie for Team Canada is filled with talent, with the likes of Carey Price, Corey Crawford, and Roberto Luongo, so much to the point that Ward was left of Canada's orientation camp roster. But after missing 10 games with a groin injury earlier this season, Ward is back, and playing like a goalie who previously won the Conn Smythe.

There's no telling if Ward will work his way back into the discussion of a roster spot for Team Canada, but with the Eastern Conference and the Metropolitan Division in an early season lull, Ward has played the Hurricanes already within a point of a playoff spot. With Alexander Semin still out indefinitely with a concussion, Carolina will lean on Ward, who, for the time being, has answered the call.

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