WINNIPEG – The official word is Zach Parise is day-to-day because of a lower-body injury, but judging from the tone of the head coach and the words coming from inside the locker room Friday, the Wild isn’t expecting its first-line left winger to be in the lineup for a little while.
“If he’s not a game player, I want to keep him off the ice completely and give him a good chance to heal,” coach Mike Yeo said before Friday’s game against the Jets.
It sounds as if Parise’s foot injury, suffered Nov. 25 in St. Louis and originally expected to sideline him up to three weeks, has worsened while he played on it.
Parise missed only one game because of the injury. Judging from his ineffectiveness on the ice (four goals, one assist in 12 games) and visible limping off the ice, it never healed. Parise missed his second game in a row Friday and likely will remain off the ice this time until doctors clear him.
“We can’t hide how important Zach is to us. I’m not going to lie about it,” leading goal scorer Jason Pominville said. “But the guys that are here, some of them will have a chance to — it’s kind of cliché — step up and have more ice time and play in different situations that maybe they’re not used to playing because Zach takes up most of it.
“Other guys must take advantage now and dig deep to help this team.”
One game after left winger Matt Cooke was slotted into Parise’s spot on the Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle line, Nino Niederreiter played there against the Jets. Veteran Dany Heatley took Niederreiter’s spot on the Mikael Granlund-Pominville line.
“Granny has looked great since he’s come back [from a concussion] and Pommer’s been great all year, so I just have to create chemistry with those two,” said Heatley, who scored his eighth goal of the season Friday. “With or without Zach, the way we’ve been scoring goals, we all have to do a better job and contribute more.”
Yeo said it’s essential everybody steps up.
“It’s a tough challenge when you lose a guy like Zach,” Yeo said. “For a team that hasn’t been scoring a lot of goals, we’re losing a guy that’s a threat every time he’s on the ice. Somebody’s going to have to pick up the slack, but more importantly, we have to do it as a group.”
Instead of calling up a skilled forward to replace Parise, the slumping Wild again recalled fourth-line plumber Stephane Veilleux. The move produced offense anyway on Friday. Veilleux scored his 47th career goal in his 472nd game and first since Feb. 2, 2010.
“We’ve had skilled guys playing on the fourth line and checkers playing on the first line,” Yeo said. “Let’s get back to having roles, identities and everybody being on the same page.
“Our first, foremost thought has to be, ‘Let’s start rebuilding our game, let’s get back to who we are.’ ”
Harding back, sits
Goalie Josh Harding rejoined the Wild after missing three games to have his multiple sclerosis treatment protocol altered. Harding, who didn’t dress against Winnipeg but was activated off injured reserve, came on the trip to work with goalie coach Bob Mason after not being on the ice since his 29-save win over Vancouver on Dec. 17.
Asked how long he thinks it will be before Harding can start again, Yeo said: “I don’t know. I need to have a longer conversation with him after [Friday], but he looked really good.”
Harding was unavailable for comment.