As she witnessed her husband struggling with his grief Thursday night, Alisha Parise knew he needed a change of scenery. Less than 24 hours after his father’s death, Wild winger Zach Parise sat in front of the TV at his family’s home, watching his team lose 4-2 to Chicago.
“My wife told me, ‘You have to go to the rink,’ ’’ Zach said Friday, after rejoining the Wild for a practice at Xcel Energy Center. “ ‘You have to go and practice and get away and try and get back into the groove of things.’ It was important for me to get back.’’
Parise will return to the lineup for Saturday’s home game against Nashville, and he plans to leave with the team Saturday night for a road trip to Chicago, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. The funeral for his dad, J.P. Parise, will be held next Friday. As condolences continued to pour in from across Minnesota, North America and the NHL, Parise found comfort Friday among teammates and coaches ready to lend whatever support he needed.
After Friday’s practice, Parise joked that his dad “probably would have been mad’’ that he missed the Wild’s games against San Jose on Tuesday and Chicago on Thursday. J.P. Parise, 73, died Wednesday evening after fighting lung cancer for the past year.
Parise said the family has received “incredible, amazing’’ support from fans, coaches and players, many of whom have shared stories about J.P.’s kindness and warmth. Hearing about the impact he had on so many people, from former NHL buddies to players in the hockey programs he directed at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, has been uplifting.
“We share a lot of the same traits on the ice, but that’s only a small part,’’ Parise said. “He taught so much more than that.
“One thing he always said was, ‘Just be a good guy.’ That’s what he wanted out of Jordan [Zach’s brother] and I. The way he treated people at the rink — the people that work here, teammates, staff, everyone — is something that I’ll always remember.’’
Parise said the timing of the road trip is unfortunate, and it will be hard to be away from his family — particularly his mother, Donna — while their pain is still so fresh. Jordan will stay with her at the family home while Zach is away, which will help allow him to ease back into hockey.
Wild coach Mike Yeo told Parise he could take as much time away as he needed, but he was happy when Parise texted him Friday morning to say he would be at practice.
“It’s great to have him back in the lineup,’’ Yeo said of Parise, the Wild’s second-leading scorer with 14 goals and 16 assists. “And it’s better to have him around in the locker room and around all of us.
“With Zach, even though his heart and mind is obviously on dealing with this terrible thing, I know he will pour his heart and soul into helping our hockey team win. That’s just the kind of character he is. And, hopefully, when he comes to the rink, we can offer him something that helps the whole process.’’
What’s my line?
Despite Parise’s return, Yeo does not intend to split up the line of Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville. Zucker took Parise’s place on that top line for the past two games, and Yeo has been pleased with the result.
Zucker scored three goals on 13 shots in the loss to Chicago and the overtime loss to San Jose, and Pominville had a goal and two assists. The threesome played a solid, all-around game both nights.
“That line has been too good to break up,’’ Yeo said. “We’ll see if Zach coming in can strengthen one of the other lines, and [if] we can keep that line going the same. We would be a better team for that.’’
• Neither goaltender Darcy Kuemper nor defenseman Marco Scandella practiced Friday. Yeo said Kuemper will miss at least the next three games because of the lower-body injury he aggravated during Wednesday’s practice. Scandella (upper body) sat out Thursday’s loss and is considered day-to-day.
• Defenseman Stu Bickel was reassigned to Iowa on Friday.
• The Wild will hold a coat drive at Saturday’s game to benefit the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation. Coats, boots, mittens and hats, new and gently used, will be collected at Gates 1-4 until the start of the first period.