Wild players are approaching the start of their playoff series against Dallas as if veteran winger Zach Parise will not be in the lineup anytime soon.
Parise was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester seeing a specialist Monday, according to multiple sources, a week after aggravating a back injury that has affected him since January.
“This is an extraordinary loss for us,” goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. “The only way to look at it is, like any time, it’s going to be an opportunity for somebody else to step up and play a huge role, and play a role in winning the series.
“But you’re just not replacing Zach. Somebody like that, when he’s in the lineup, he’s awesome, and when he’s not, you certainly feel it. It’s sports. That’s the way it is.”
Parise, who officially is listed as day-to-day because of an undisclosed injury, hasn’t been on the ice since playing the San Jose Sharks last Tuesday.
Parise was diagnosed with a herniated disk that was pressing on a nerve in January. He played through the injury while getting treatment and cortisone injections. But since being tripped last week by Sharks center Logan Couture, Parise has experienced tingling in his legs, foot numbness and disabling back pain, sources say.
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher declined to comment.
On March 23, Parise got a cortisone injection and felt better than ever when he scored three goals and assisted on another the next day against Calgary. A game later, he scored twice in Colorado and earned First Star of the Week honors in the NHL. But Parise’s discomfort flared up again during the San Jose game.
“He’s a great player, he’s a leader of our hockey team, he’s obviously one of the hardest-working guys on this team,” two-time Stanley Cup winner Jarret Stoll said. “There’s a lot of things that he brings. Come playoff time, there’s injuries. There’s a lot of things you have to deal with whether it’s to start the playoffs, during the playoffs, whatever.
“It’s just another loss that we have to overcome. Guys have to step up. I don’t know if there’s a team that has won the Stanley Cup or gone far in the playoffs without losing different guys. We’re all going to have to chip in and be a little bit better.”
For now, Chris Porter has taken Parise’s spot on a line with Mikael Granlund and David Jones.
But Parise’s not the Wild’s only injured player.
Winger Thomas Vanek is “iffy,” according to a source, to play in the first round because of an upper-body injury. And center Erik Haula missed his second practice in a row Monday because of an undisclosed injury.
The Wild will take Tuesday off, but the hope is Haula can practice Wednesday in his normal spot between Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville. It’s that line that interim coach John Torchetti hopes to match up against the Stars’ prolific top line led by the NHL’s second-leading scorer, Jamie Benn.
Torchetti said he likes Haula’s chances of playing in Game 1. If not, it looks as if minor league call-up Zac Dalpe would get that duty. Dalpe, 26, has played 119 NHL games and scored his first goal with the Wild in Saturday’s season finale.
“I like his size, I like his skating, and I like his shot,” Torchetti said. “I’ve got all the confidence in this kid.”
Dalpe, 26, tore a labrum in a hip after his first game with the AHL’s Iowa Wild. He had surgery, missed four months, but in his fourth game back Dalpe injured a knee.
“You’re in extensive rehab a month ago and now you have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup,” Dalpe said. “Pretty cliché, but a Canadian kid watching hockey into May or June, it’s pretty surreal, that’s for sure.
“I’m excited. I’m confident I can get the job done if I’m needed to step in and do that.”
There’s little doubt the Wild will be missing key players at the worst possible time.
“We have a group of guys in here that’s going to go out and compete every night, no matter who is in the lineup,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “That’s how this team is built. You don’t have the superstars on the team, you have guys who are just going to go out and work hard. Yeah, it’s going to hurt, if they’re not in the lineup, not having those guys, but we’ve got to find a way to win and buy some time until they can get back in.”