There is still no exact time frame as to how long Zach Parise will be missing from the Wild lineup, but in the past few days, coach Mike Yeo has changed his tune from labeling him day-to-day.
That could be because the latest magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed a fracture in his left foot, sources say. There was no speculation as to how long Parise will be sidelined, but he is expected to miss at least the current four-game homestand and likely longer. The injury is not expected to affect his ability to represent the United States in the Winter Olympics in February, however.
Parise missed his third consecutive game Sunday, when the Wild saw its losing streak reach five with a 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders.
On Saturday, Yeo declined to even reveal where Parise was injured on his lower body.
But on Sunday, Yeo said: “We’ve got to keep him off the ice until it starts to feel better and then we might have to keep him off a little bit longer. We just have to make sure he gets a full opportunity to heal.”
Parise was expected to miss two to three weeks because of a bruised foot after being struck by Alex Steen’s slapshot in St. Louis on a first-period Blues power play Nov. 25. Parise wound up missing one game, feeling compelled to fight through the injury with a slew of big games coming up.
But Parise had trouble skating at full speed and especially pushing off the final week. He had four goals and one assist in 12 games playing through it, including no goals and one assist in eight road games.
It’s believed his foot was always broken, but it didn’t show up on the initial MRI, which is common.
“It’s a long season and we need him to have the opportunity to go out and perform and compete at the level that he’s capable of,” Yeo said. “He’s been really grinding it out there. He’s such a competitor. He wants to be in the lineup and it’s been extremely difficult for him. We have to give him a lot of credit for that, but at the same time, we’ve got to make sure he gets better.”
Making his first start since beating Vancouver on Dec. 17, Josh Harding returned to the nets after missing four games — all Wild losses — to have his treatment for multiple sclerosis altered. Harding, who entered Sunday leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage, gave up five goals on 31 shots against New York.
Yeo was asked again before the game whether it seems the Wild is more confident playing in front of Harding than veteran Niklas Backstrom, who is 2-9-2.
“That’s something I’d like to rectify,” Yeo said. “I’d like to be the same team regardless of who’s in the net for us and who we’re playing against and whether we’re playing at home or the road.
“We have played a stronger game in front of Josh, but I also don’t want to take anything away from him. He’s also made it appear that way many times, too. At the end of the game, when you win 2-1, it’s easy to forget about some of the great saves he’s made. There’s no question there’s been times where he’s allowed our team to find our game.”
• Thomas Vanek, the former Gophers standout whom the Wild might pursue if he becomes a free agent next summer, said he has enjoyed his time with the Islanders since being traded from Buffalo. “Obviously, losing stinks,” said Vanek, who assisted on Kyle Okposo’s winning goal. “But I feel like we’ve been playing good hockey, just not closing out games. As far as my teammates and the organization, they’ve been great to me.” Vanek lives in Stillwater and expected 40 family members, friends and youth hockey players to watch him Sunday.
• Zenon Konopka was scratched for the Wild and Torrey Mitchell moved to center between Mike Rupp and Stephane Veilleux on the fourth line.