ST. LOUIS – Zach Parise was best man in Chris Porter’s wedding. Porter was a groomsman in Parise’s wedding.
Yet, the Wild and Blues forwards are limiting their conversations in this playoff series and in fact Parise said when asked about Porter on Friday, “I usually don’t like talking about the other team’s guys in the playoffs.”
But Parise couldn’t help himself about Porter. Inserted into Game 4 after being a healthy scratch the first three games and much of the regular season, Porter, 30, continued his history of being impactful in the playoffs by assisting on the Blues’ first goal and making life miserable for the Wild from St. Louis’ fourth line.
“He’s a really, really hardworking guy on and off the ice,” Parise said of his former Shattuck St. Mary’s and University of North Dakota teammate and current offseason training partner. “He’s a guy that understands what he’s supposed to do. He knows that he’s supposed to go out there and be tough to play against.
“Just watch, he’s physical on our D all the time, he can skate, he’s fast. To me, he’s a really effective player.”
Porter calls Parise one of his closest friends and was so impressed with how Parise was able to play this season through the pain of watching his father, J.P. Parise, fight cancer. J.P. lost his battle in January, and Porter, injured at the time, flew to Minnesota for the funeral to support his friend.
“He’s a true professional, he leads by example and having his dad not be there, I think it’s more of a driving force for him to do what he does,” Porter said of Parise. “It’s not surprising that he’s had the year that he has. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he’s good at what he does. I’m happy for him. It’s not an easy thing to lose your father. Everyone is trying to be there for him, and he’s dealt with it as best he could.”
Porter said Zach’s dad was very influential in his life and career.
“He kind of taught us how to play the game,” Porter said. “It was not just me. Anybody that went to [Shattuck] has their own little J.P. story.”
In the meantime, Porter again has become a weapon for St. Louis in the postseason.
“Guys don’t want to go back and get the puck when he’s on the ice,” linemate Ryan Reaves said. “He’s fast, he can run the body. He’s got a really good ability to hold the puck down low and get it to the next guy to make a play.”
Scratched in three of the first four games of the playoffs, Matt Cooke replaced Sean Bergenheim as the Wild’s only lineup change for Game 5.
“It’s never easy sitting out a game at all let alone in the playoffs,” said Cooke, who suspended seven games last postseason for kneeing Colorado’s Tyson Barrie. “I feel like my game is built for this time of year and these type of games. It’s tough, but I had a tough year with injuries and guys have come in and played well and they deserved and earned a spot to be out there playing.
“I didn’t expect to come in and just leapfrog everybody because they were a part of the success down the stretch, and I had to watch from the outside looking in.”
It’s only the Central Division teams getting these 8:30 p.m. (really 8:45 p.m.) starts.
Coaches clearly don’t like it.
“Don’t even get me going on that one. It’s way past my bedtime,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Friday morning before humorously walking out of the news conference.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was asked about the same subject after Game 4 of the Blackhawks-Predators series ended at 1:16 a.m. in triple overtime.
“You should ask the fans who had to get up the next morning for work in Chicago [what they thought],” Quenneville said. “You look at the Eastern, the other side, and the teams out west — basically the teams in our division are getting these 8:30 starts. It’s probably not easy on anybody, including [the media]. It is what it is. I think players like 7, 7:30s and let’s go.”
Hitchcock was asked how it’s possible the Blues and Wild could look so different in Games 3 and 4.
The Wild won Game 3, 3-0, but Hitchcock said it could have been 6-0. The Blues won Game 4, 6-1.
“You’re putting so much into these games,” he said. “You get a win, it’s almost like a relief emotionally and then to get your team cranked up and play again, it’s a challenge for both coaches.
“That’s hockey. It’s easy to get motivated after you lose, it’s what you do after you win.”
You’d think it would be the opposite, but it’s just they pour so much into it, it’s more of a relief when it’s over.”
• Game 6 of the series will start at 2 p.m. Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. The game will be telecast by NBC.
• The Blues were without center Jori Lehtera, who was nailed by Jay Bouwmeester’s slap shot on a third-period power play in Game 4. Marcel Goc took Lehtera’s place.