Despite the fact that the Wild is about to embark on its toughest stretch of games so far this season without one of its best players, the team felt it “dodged a bullet” Tuesday when it was determined leading scorer Zach Parise would miss two to three weeks because of a left foot contusion.
“It’s disappointing to lose Zach for any amount of time, but when you look at the number of foot injuries that you see, it very easily could have been the four-to-six-week scenario, and then you’re talking 15 or 20 games,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “So as crazy at it sounds, we’re actually fairly pleased.”
Parise, who blocked Alex Steen’s one-time shot on a first-period penalty kill during the Wild’s 3-0 loss on Monday at St. Louis, was wearing a walking boot Tuesday night but was relieved to avoid a break or potentially surgery.
Still, Parise, who led the Wild in scoring last season and again leads Minnesota with 22 points in 25 games, isn’t used to missing games. He has missed one or no games in seven of his eight seasons.
“Really frustrated, especially looking at the schedule that we’ve got coming up,” said Parise, referring to the fact that eight of the Wild’s next 10 games come against Western Conference top-eight teams Phoenix, Colorado, Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim.
The Wild sits seventh in the conference — two points up on the Coyotes, who visit St. Paul on Wednesday.
“The timing is not ideal,” Parise said, “so hopefully it won’t be that long and I’ll be able to come back sooner than we’re saying.”
Parise said “a lot of it has to do with when I’ll be able to walk comfortably, when I’ll even be able to push off in a skate comfortably.”
The injury bug has put the Wild’s roster in a state of flux.
Second-line center Mikael Granlund has missed two games because of an upper-body injury, versatile right winger Torrey Mitchell three games because of a leg injury. Goalie Josh Harding (leg) also has missed two games, while defenseman Keith Ballard has missed 16 of the past 19 games because of two injuries.
Ballard might return Wednesday, but Fletcher said the Wild will have to count bodies Wednesday morning before deciding if it needs to call up a forward. If Granlund or Mitchell can’t play, a reinforcement probably would be needed.
Regardless, others will have to step up with Parise sidelined.
“Dany Heatley has done a lot better the last couple weeks,” Fletcher said. “This is an opportunity potentially for him to step up and play a bigger role. Jason Zucker is a player that didn’t make our team out of camp and now potentially there’s a bigger role staring him in the face as well.
“We certainly have on paper the guys that can step in and score goals. It’s going to be a challenge. You can’t replace Zach. There’s not another Zach Parise in your minor-league system, so we’ll have to rely on some other players to step up and take advantage of a bigger role and hopefully we find a way to score enough goals.”