Zach Parise woke up on April 6 and couldn't get out of bed. He had great back pain, and his left leg was numb and tingly. His left foot had little strength.
For three months, the Wild left winger secretly was playing with a herniated disk that was pressing on a nerve in his lower back. A questionable hit by San Jose's Logan Couture on April 5 put Parise's injury over the edge. He already had reached the maximum three cortisone injections.
"I don't know if you've ever had nerve pain, but it doesn't feel very good," said Parise, talking Wednesday for the first time since being sidelined for the entire first round of the playoffs. "It's been really scary, some of the things that I was feeling. There was a lot of pain and just some of the things that were happening, it was a little eye-opening."
Parise hopes to avoid offseason back surgery.
"It's too early to tell, but I'm optimistic that therapy and the rehab is working really well, that we're going to be able to avoid that," he said.
Because of the length of rehab necessary if Parise undergoes surgery, a decision needs to come soon if he expects to be ready for the start of next season.
"I feel like everything is going really well and ahead of where they thought I'd be," Parise said. "To me, standing here today, I don't think I'll have to [have surgery].
"I'm not a doctor, but from all the people I've met with and talked to, in the long run, surgery or no surgery, the results have been the same. The surgery, they said, would have relieved a lot of the pain, but you'd end up in the same spot down the road."
Parise's goal is to still represent the United States in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in September and be in the Wild's opening night lineup in October. Parise, who turns 32 in July and led the Wild with 25 goals this season, doesn't believe the injury will adversely affect his career.
He feels as if he'll be training like he normally does by midsummer. He has been rehabbing at TRIA Orthopaedic Center in Bloomington and his trainer, Jay Schroeder, is in town working with him.
"I've got all the confidence in the world in him," Parise said. "So I'm not worried about next year, the start of next year, I'll be fine."
The most difficult part of the injury was missing the playoffs, he said.
"It was brutal watching it. You want to be a part of it, you want to go play with the guys on the road and be a part of playing here in front of the fans and the excitement of playoffs," Parise said. "That's why you play the whole year is to play in playoffs. … I don't want to speculate anything, but I'd like to think that I would have helped the team."
A few players Wednesday wondered how the complexion of the series — a six-game loss to the Dallas Stars — would have changed if Parise and Thomas Vanek (broken ribs) could have played.
"You could say that you've got to play with the players that are in the locker room, which you do," teammate Chris Porter said. "But you miss those guys and their leadership. I think it would've been a different series for sure. … But those are the cards we were dealt."
Wednesday's breakup day theme was the same as last year … and the year before — limiting the season's dramatic ups and downs that once again plagued the Wild.
Parise and others said it's critical the Wild becomes more consistent so it's not always eking into a wild-card playoff spot, something that's occurred four consecutive seasons.
"I don't know [why it happens] because I do feel like we have good leadership," Vanek said. "It's something we all need to improve at. Every team goes through ups and downs, but our ups and downs are a lot worse than good teams have, and that's not a good thing."