Was it his back or was it not his back? That is the question.
Zach Parise said Monday the injury that has kept him out of the Wild’s lineup so far was not to his back. He declined to say what exactly it was or whether it was an injury he’s dealt with previously.
After missing the season-opening road trip, Parise skated with the team Monday at Xcel Energy Center on the fourth line alongside winger Daniel Winnik and center Matt Cullen. Parise did say he’s optimistic that he’s “out of the woods now,” but everything is still open in terms of a timetable for his return.
The Wild plays at Chicago on Thursday before Saturday’s home opener against Columbus.
“It’s more so waiting until it feels 100 percent,” Parise said. “I feel like I’ve been playing too much lately at below 100 percent, and it gets to be a challenge after a while. So at least to start the season, I’d like to feel good going into the season and not be worried about an injury.”
While coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday he anticipated Parise’s return for this weekend’s game, he said Monday he has “no clue” about Parise’s comeback, adding he’d leave that decision to the player, trainers and doctors.
“He made it through the whole practice, and he made it through the little skate at the end,” Boudreau said of some condition work at the end of the session. “I know he’s been skating, but it’s different when you’re skating with guys.”
Parise’s mystery injury that kept him out for most of training camp “came out of nowhere,” according to the winger.
“I was really surprised a couple weeks before camp and just started flaring up a little bit,” Parise said. “And then you were able to see it was weird because it would come and go, and I skated with the team a couple times thinking it was gone, and it would show up again. So had to just take some time off and let it calm down.
“It’s been hard. I thought I had a really good summer of training and skating and working hard on a lot of different things. So you have that excitement coming into camp and ready to play, and then you get a little setback early. But like I said, hopefully it’s gone, and it’s something I can just move on from and not have to worry about and not have it linger throughout the season.”
Parise’s past two seasons have been injury-plagued, including by back issues. But no matter what the specific ailment, the forward said injuries are always a tedious endeavor.
“You want to make sure you’re getting back to feeling normal and able to do things that you know you’re capable of doing, and you should be able to do,” Parise said. “And I think that was what was holding me back a little bit.”
Granlund to the doc
The only player missing from practice was winger Mikael Granlund, who sat out Saturday’s game because of a groin injury. Boudreau said Granlund went to see a doctor Monday.
“I really think it’s short-term,” Boudreau said. “I saw him [Sunday], and he felt a lot better. When you have the few amount of games that we have right now, you don’t want to make something worse and worse and worse. That’s why we kept him off the game the other day. Now that’s three days that he’s been off the ice.”
The Wild has four days between games this week and five next week. But winger Charlie Coyle said the team will use the breaks to its advantage with extra practice. Monday’s session saw a lot of in-game situation drills.
“It gives us a chance to work on some things that we have to work on and just get those good habits back for us to play a full game of what we do well,” Coyle said.
Coyle specifically pointed out defense as a general area that needs to improve and become “tighter.”
“I’ve watched the game a few times now and instead of being sharp with starts and stops everything we just like circling,” Boudreau said of his team’s loose play in the opening two games. “And unfortunately, that happens at the beginning of the year. That’s where preseason, guys get so many bad habits because they don’t want to do the right things, they just want to get through the games.
“You’ve got to use this time, and I told the players [Monday], this week and next week, we have to know exactly how we play by the end of next week, because there’s not going to be a lot of practice time after that.”