Wearing a yellow “handle with care” noncontact jersey, Wild forward Zach Parise practiced with a dozen teammates Wednesday for the first time since Dec. 22.
Parise, who has missed 11 games, tested his broken left foot for more than an hour one day after his return to the ice.
Parise said he barely broke a sweat Tuesday, but Wednesday was a much better test. He said his foot felt “OK.”
“A couple times I found myself off balance, sometimes favoring the other foot,” Parise said. “But after a while when I got comfortable using it, it felt pretty good. Quick starts, it felt much better than it did a month ago, so that’s a good sign.”
Parise said there is no way to predict how soon he can return to the lineup.
“It’s skate, see how you feel the next morning, do a little more if you feel OK, then see how you feel the next morning,” Parise said. “So I’ll see how it is when I wake up in the morning. Timeline, I don’t know. You’ve got to get back into game shape and playing shape. It was tough not being able to do that type of stuff for three, four weeks. It’s hard.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo said it was a welcome sight seeing Parise back on the ice, but he added that his players must guard themselves against sitting around waiting for him.
“We’ve got to make sure we bounce back from [Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Ottawa],” Yeo said, referring to Thursday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite no full practices in a week, Yeo gave his players an option to practice Wednesday. About a dozen took part in a 3-on-3 scrimmage.
Yeo explained after watching Tuesday’s game again, “It’s clear we couldn’t get to loose pucks … couldn’t win our battles … couldn’t move our feet when we got the puck.
“We would love to have some practice time,” but Yeo said that with so many games in a short period of time with travel, “we’ve got to make sure we put some fuel back in the tank.”
Incidentally, assistant coach Darryl Sydor wore the captain’s “C” during that 3-on-3 scrimmage and volunteered that he scored three goals, including the winner.
“He was handing out the jerseys and he happened to hand himself out the one with the ‘C’ on it,” Yeo joked. “He’s officially the 17th defenseman in our organization. It might be lower than that actually.”
Koivu healing quickly
Captain Mikko Koivu, who had ankle surgery Jan. 6, already is walking without the aid of crutches and without a visible limp.
“It’s amazing,” Yeo said. “I know he’s motivated to get back.”
Goalie Josh Harding (illness) took part in Wednesday’s practice. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who has missed six games because of a broken foot, is no longer wearing a boot, Yeo said, and is close to skating.
Parise said the blessing of being injured is that he has gotten to be by the side of his wife, Alisha, and his newborn twins, Emelia and Jaxson, during the first week of their lives.
They were born a minute apart Jan. 8.
“It’s been the greatest thing ever. I couldn’t be happier,” Parise said. “It’s 10 times better than the way people describe it. Everyone says it’s the greatest thing in the world. You hear them, but you don’t really hear them until you go through it and see it and have them at home, it’s incredible.”
Cloquet’s Jamie Langenbrunner, a two-time Stanley Cup-winning forward who captained the United States to a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, retired Wednesday after 16 seasons.
“When I was a younger guy [with New Jersey], he was so good to me and had me over his house for dinner and things like that with his family,” Parise said.
“I sat next to him in the locker room. He talked to me a lot about being a professional and about playing the game the right way. I had my best years career-wise playing with him, so I owe him a lot.”