The Wild may have a serious issue on its hands.
Zach Parise’s maintenance day turned into a third day Sunday as the Wild leading goal scorer missed practice with an undisclosed injury. It’s unclear if this is a continuation of the upper-body injury he has been dealing with the entire second half or something new, but coach John Torchetti would only say Parise is day-to-day.
I’ve got a feeling this is something new.
Asked if there’s a chance he won’t be ready for the start of Thursday’s playoff series against the Dallas Stars, Torchetti said, “It's just day-to-day right now.”
Asked how big of a concern this is, Torchetti said, “Haven't even got there, but whatever players are playing, that's who we work with, and that's how we prepare for the playoffs.”
Checking-line center Erik Haula also missed Sunday’s practice and is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. And, as previously reported, veteran Thomas Vanek will miss the start of the playoffs with an upper-body injury.
Haula would be a serious loss because he’s the guy that’ll be tasked with going up against the Stars’ top line.
As for Parise, he led the Wild with 25 goals and has the second-most playoff experience on the Wild with 89 games. He’s also the leading playoff scorer in Wild history with 25 points in 28 games. His nine playoff goals with the Wild rank second behind Marian Gaborik’s 12.
Chris Porter said Parise “has been mum about it to everybody. It’s obviously bad. We were all joking that he’s a superstitious guy and scoring three on Backy (Niklas Backstrom) last time, you know it has to be something if he’s going to miss a game against a goalie he scored three against a few weeks ago.”
Porter said it would be a huge loss if Parise’s not ready
“He’s the head of the snake,” Porter said. “We need him in the lineup. If he isn’t able to go, other guys need to step up. But he’s a proven great player in the playoffs and you need your leaders at that time.”
Porter has assumed Parise’s spot on the Mikael Granlund line and played a terrific game against Calgary on Saturday. He led the Wild with 157 hits this season and that was while missing 21 games.
It sounds like Torchetti wants Porter and Ryan Carter playing in the playoffs.
“Even going back a few games for me, I had to go back when I had a few days off and look at some film, and I really liked our team against Washington, and I really liked our team against Philly,” Torchetti said. “Ports and Carts were in both of them, so we need that physicality.”
The full Round 1 schedule will be released by the NHL later tonight.
Here are some Wild thoughts on Dallas, and of course, I’ll have a closer look at the Stars in Monday’s paper.
Playing tight-checking mentality against Dallas? “It was our message for today. They've got some great scorers, some good leadership, some D that are very active, a power play that's very potent, and all the things that we talk about night-in, night-out, we have to make sure that we're dialed in on it, and getting back to it. We played Chicago pretty tight, and they're just like them offensively, so we have to commit to the defensive side of the puck.”
On the Wild’s poor net-front presence lately: “That's the number one thing. If you watch Dallas' power play, Benn's their best player, and he's in front of the net. He's got 41 goals, and that's what you have to do. You have to screen the goalie. Backstrom was seeing the puck a lot last night, and I'm sure we'll have a better commitment moving forward on that, because it's a commitment. When the puck is high, you have to make sure we have a net-front, and if there's no half-wall push down, we have to make sure we get a net-front there because we had some chances where their D was off the dot, and we should have been attacking the net there, and then getting some loose change.”
On Dallas’ comebacks against the Wild all season: “That's the idea of the checking mentality. You have to stay focused on it, you have to stay in your matchups, and we have to make sure we're getting pucks out. Our five foot rule: Pucks out, pucks deep, and not giving them opportunities because they like to quick transition in the neutral zone. They go three-high right away, so our F3 has got to be aware in the neutral zone, and not get caught puck-staring, and just manage the puck through the neutral zone.”
On the Stars’ Top-6: “They're really good. You've got to know it. You have to make sure you know who you're on the ice against. I'm sure they're going to look for different matchups against us, and we have to be really detailed, making sure we put the puck into good spots if we do make changes or matchups against them. We'll know after the first five minutes what we're looking for, and we'll adjust from there.”
On the Stars: “They've got guys with some high-end skill. If they get the puck in the zone — and they're dangerous off the rush, too — but if they get the puck in the zone, they've got the ability to make seam passes. You can’t overplay them, and try to prevent those things, because that's kind of when you get beat. The important thing is going to be staying out of the box, too. From the kill perspective, making sure that it's difficult for them to get in the zone and get setup. Faceoffs will be big. On the other side, we have to work hard and get power plays. The power play will get going on its own. We've got some high-end players on there, too, and if we get that clicking it will be good for us.”
On the Stars’ firepower: “It’s crazy. They have a very high octane offense. We’re aware of that. we’re going to have to take time and space away from them so they don’t make plays. Have to play extra tight. We’re going to defend with a lot of detail, good sticks, boxing out hard and take away time and space so they don’t have their push.”
“We’ve seen them before. I think everyone’s going in with a positive mindset. That’s a team that can be beat obviously and we’ve been in this position before and we’ve come out on top. We have a good team in here and it’s up to us how we play and what we do here.”
On Dallas: “They’ve got guys who can score and a lot of talent and skill, so you can’t take any time off against them. We just got to hang strong and keep coming with our game. We can’t let up, we have to stay consistent. We have nothing to save it for. It’s playoff hockey, the time is now. This is when you’ve got to pour it up and turn it up. We have to go in every game ready for the start and be ready for a push. They’re a good team, they’re in that place for a reason and they’re going to have a couple pushes. We just have to weather the storm there, battle back and stay within our game.”
“They've got a lot of offense, a lot of depth on their team, so we need to prepare with our strengths, and the way we play the game. We have to be as a team from the first puck drop, and start building our game from there. It's a big, big challenge for us, but with our game, and the way we play, we can challenge any team in this league."