The Minnesota Wild have won seven of their past 10 games and they’re about to get a big piece of their lineup back on Thursday night.
Forward Zach Parise, who has missed the past 14 games, will make his return Thursday at home at the Xcel Energy Center against the defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks. Parise has been practicing for the past week and wanted to make sure he could finish Thursday mornings skate before saying he was ready.
“Felt good again this morning, so I think we’re going to give it a shot tonight,” Parise said. “Felt good enough to play.”
Parise hasn’t played since December 22nd because of a foot injury. He returned to full practice on Monday, Coach Mike Yeo said a return Thursday was possible.
But Yeo couldn’t avoid the inevitable when he met with the media Thursday morning after Parise said he was ready.
“Spoiler alert,” Yeo joked. “He didn’t even let me tell you guys. Yeah, back in the lineup. We had a pretty good feeling that he would be yesterday, as long as he felt good again this morning. So obviously we’re very excited to have him back.”
The team left the decision up to Parise, depending on his conditioning and how his injured foot has responded to practices and being back in skates on a regular basis.
“Probably just getting that pace down,” Parise said. “When you miss for a long period of time, practice is one thing and it’s good to get in the practices, but games are another pace. It’s another speed. So hopefully that won’t take too long to get back to where I was when I was feeling good.”
Parise was originally expected to miss a few weeks with a foot contusion in November, but returned after missing just one game. He played 12 more games, but was still bothered by the foot. He went on injured reserve on December 28th to allow the foot time to heal, staying out of skates while the healing took place.
Despite the missed time, Parise is second on the team with 15 goals and fourth with 37 points. He feels he’s past the point of a possible re-injury to the foot.
“I feel much better than I did after I got hit and played,” Parise said. “It’s night and day how much better I feel. So that’s a good sign. It still hurts a little bit at times, gets sore after, but it feels much better than it did before when I was playing. So the biggest test will be playing in a game but it feels good enough to go.”