With injured Zach Parise staying behind, the Wild flew to Dallas on Wednesday to begin its playoff series against the Stars.
A day after the Star Tribune reported Parise was experiencing tingling in his legs and numbness in his feet due to a herniated disk in his back, the Wild announced he will be sidelined indefinitely because of an upper body injury.
The news could soon be worse. According to multiple sources, Parise was at the Mayo Clinic seeing a spine specialist Monday. Now being determined is whether Parise needs season-ending microdiscectomy surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve column.
Parise is first trying physical therapy to see if that improves the situation. Still, the Wild’s all-time leading playoff scorer, with 25 points in 28 games, could very well miss the postseason.
“You’re always going to miss his leadership and his tenacity, and his workmanship. Just everything,” interim coach John Torchetti said. “He’s one of our leaders for the team. But you can’t worry about what you don’t have. You have to work with what you have. So that’s what we’re focused on.”
Veteran winger Thomas Vanek is week-to-week because of an upper body injury, meaning he will miss at least the first round. Center Erik Haula traveled to Dallas, but he is expected to miss Game 1 because of a lower-body injury.
Torchetti scrambled the second and third lines in practice Wednesday, moving Mikael Granlund between Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville, and Zac Dalpe between Chris Porter and David Jones.
“We’ve got to focus on the guys that are ready to play and the guys who are in the room,” said Niederreiter, who has seven goals and four assists in 23 career playoff games. “I think we still have a very strong team. With Zach out, it doesn’t help the case, especially offensively.
“He’s a guy who gets the important goals, so we need other guys to step up.”
The Wild has boasted about its improved depth all season, but it’s certainly being strained.
“We’ve been rotating now for the last month or two, a lot of players, so right now it’s a good thing we did that,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “It’s very important that even the guys that haven’t played a lot, they still know the systems, and know the players around them.
“Injuries are part of the game, and everyone knows that. … We’ve been mixing a lot of lines, so we’re familiar with each other, and that’s a big plus.”
Dallas defenseman Johnny Oduya said his team can’t take the Wild lightly just because Parise, his ex-Devils teammate, is sidelined.
“The challenge is not going to change,” Oduya said. “Of course for them, it’s probably a little bit tougher having that top guy out. He’s the leader and kind of the guy they look to for a lot of offense, tough guy probably to replace.”
Alex Tuch, the Wild’s top pick in the 2014 draft (18th overall), agreed to a three-year contract that starts next season.
Tuch, 19, had 18 goals in 40 games as a sophomore for Boston College this past season after scoring 14 as a freshman. The 6-4, 220-pounder played for the U.S. in the world junior tournament in 2015.
“He’s a big power winger with quality hands and an NHL shot,” said Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr. “He had a strong finish to the season and was eager to get his pro career going.”
One player excited for the postseason seems to be Granlund, who looked bright-eyed as he talked about the challenge Wednesday.
“This is the time of the season where you really have to enjoy everything,” he said. “Every little play matters; every little thing matters. It decides [whether] you win or lose, and that’s what makes it so exciting.”