VANCOUVER – Wild winger Zach Parise is chasing after the puck, winning battles and reporting for duty at the front of the net — and paying the price of admission to score from there.
Basically, he has reminded coach Bruce Boudreau of the player he was when he emerged as a scoring threat early in his career with the Devils.
And that’s encouraging for the Wild.
“That’s what he was like in Jersey, and that’s what I’m seeing recently,” Boudreau said.
When the Wild departed for Vancouver to start a back-to-back against the Canucks on Friday, Parise brought an impressive streak along with him.
He tallied a point in five consecutive games, which is the longest string since a seven-game run Dec. 5-19, 2015, and he had recorded the game-winning goal in each of the Wild’s previous two victories. It was the first time he’s secured winners in consecutive games since March 24-26, 2016 — further evidence Parise is getting more and more comfortable after returning from back surgery.
Parise made it six games in a row with a first-period goal in the 5-2 victory over the Canucks.
“I hope I’m out of the woods with everything,” said Parise, who missed the first 39 games of the season. “I feel like physical, it’s probably the best I’ve felt in a few years. It makes a difference just being healthy.”
Chemistry with captain Mikko Koivu seems to be a factor, too, with Koivu also boasting a five-game point streak. Parise credits Koivu’s responsibility in both zones for creating opportunities for the line.
“He’s set me up for some nice passes and some nice plays, and we’ve connected on a few,” he said. “We’ve missed on a few, but it’s been fun.”
Burnsville native and Canucks rookie standout Brock Boeser wasn’t on the ice to face the Wild on Friday.
Boeser suffered a small fracture to his lower back Monday after he crashed into the Canucks’ bench when the door was open. The 21-year-old was taken to a hospital for evaluation, and it was determined he’d make a full recovery in four to six weeks.
“A big bright spot for our season [and] for himself personally,” Canucks coach Travis Green said of Boeser, who leads the Canucks and all rookies in goals with 29. “Anxious to see what we have in Brock Boeser. If it’s anywhere near what we saw this year and he gets better, it’s going to be awfully exciting.”
The NHL Players’ Association released its 2017-18 player poll this week, and Wild center Matt Cullen was included in the results.
Cullen received 4.5 percent of the votes for the question that asked which current player would be a great coach once he retires.
“I’ve never really put a lot of thought into it, to be honest,” Cullen said. “I guess I’ve had a lot of experience, and I’ve been through a lot through a long career, I guess.
“Truthfully, I’ve never thought a lot about it. I don’t know. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’m done playing.”
Xcel Energy Center ranked among the rinks that have the best ice. It got 6 percent of the votes, with the Bell Centre in Montreal (28 percent) and Rogers Place in Edmonton (21.7) leading, followed by Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg (6.6) and Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary (6).
Wait and see
Goalie Devan Dubnyk started Friday, but don’t be surprised if he finishes off the back-to-back Saturday in Edmonton against the Oilers.
Boudreau said before Friday’s game he wouldn’t announce a starter, evaluating the situation day-by-day, but he did point out Dubnyk’s success in Edmonton.
In nine games against the Oilers, Dubnyk is 8-1 with a .948 save percentage and 1.31 goals-against average.
“We’ll see how it works out,” Boudreau said.
Defenseman Nick Seeler, who has been dealing with a right biceps strain and the flu, did not accompany the Wild to Vancouver but is improving.
Seeler would only rejoin the team in Edmonton if the defense suffered an injury against the Canucks.
“He skated [Friday],” Boudreau said. “Feels much better. His biceps are feeling a little bit better.”