If only for a few days, there was a Zach Parise-Adam Oates reunion in the Twin Cities.
With training camp set to begin Thursday in St. Paul, Parise brought in his former New Jersey Devils assistant coach to Minnesota this past weekend for a couple of days of crash course skills and power-play work and conversation.
On Monday, Oates, a Hall of Famer center who has been an assistant with Tampa Bay and New Jersey and head coach in Washington, watched the Wild’s informal practice at Braemar Arena in Edina. Afterward, Oates worked privately with Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter for more than an hour on the south rink.
“Everything he says just makes sense,” Parise said. “I’ve known him since I’ve played for him in New Jersey and we’ve kept in touch and he watches our games and our power plays, so we communicate during the season. He’s probably the smartest hockey guy that I’ve ever been around.”
Oates, who ranks 14th all-time in power-play points and coached some prolific power plays in especially Washington and Tampa Bay, worked with Parise and Suter on one-timers, plays around the net and entries. As Oates conducted drills and gathered the two for instruction, both were wide-eyed as training camp creeps closer.
The Wild’s power play ranked 27th last season, but Parise said, “Ryan and I just want to be better players, and I know that [Oates] helps.”
Last season, the Wild’s power play set up the majority of the time on the right side of the rink. Oates set up on the left for much of Monday’s tutorial and fed one-time pass after one-time pass to Suter, who blasted away. Both Wild coach Mike Yeo and General Manager Chuck Fletcher have said there will be power-play strategic changes in camp and one could be from which side of the rink the Wild will set up.
“[Oates] did wonders working with our ‘D’ in Jersey, and Ryan knows that he can improve getting the puck up at the top and hammering it and shooting it and getting those one-timers on the power play,” Parise said. “For me, I need to work on one-timers from out further and try to get some shots on goal from outside.
“The biggest thing about [Oates] when I played for him is he always broadened my game beyond just being around the net.”
Oates, who last season was co-coach in New Jersey, is living in Oregon waiting for his next opportunity. In the meantime, Parise, Suter and the rest of the Wild have one more informal skate Wednesday before taking the ice for the first time with Wild coaches Friday.
The Wild’s first exhibition game is Monday against Buffalo.
“It’s a fun time where you’re always excited, but you still even get a little nerves,” Parise said.
• The Wild announced its 35-player training camp roster, one that will increase by upward of 20 Tuesday when the team promotes several players, including roster hopefuls Mike Reilly and Kurtis Gabriel, from the prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich.
The roster includes goalie Leland Irving, 27, a 2006 Calgary Flames first-round draft pick, on a pro tryout. Irving, who played in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League last season, has played 13 NHL games and is essentially trying out for AHL Iowa.
• The Wild will hold a scrimmage Saturday that is free and open to the public. Gate 1 at Xcel Energy Center opens at 9 a.m. — the same time single-game tickets go on sale at the arena. The Wild also will hold a practice that is open to the public at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 30.
• As part of an NHL-wide effort, walk-through metal detectors have been added at all entrances of Xcel Energy Center. All fans, media, vendors and staff will be required to pass through upon entry to Wild games. To expedite the screening process, gates will open 75 minutes before each game.
• Center Erik Haula looked in midseason for Monday. He had stitches across his upper lip after being struck by a skate blade Friday. “I got lucky,” Haula said.
• Wild prospect Grayson Downing was injured during Monday’s 7-1 loss to St. Louis at Traverse City and is doubtful for the start of training camp.