The big news of the day is Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and assistant coach Scott Stevens were back at practice in Edina this morning with the Wild.
Parise and Pominville got a good skate in with skating and skills instructor Andy Ness on Friday, and they both intend on playing Sunday (5 p.m. puck drop) against Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the heating-up, Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks.
That means, barring anything unexpected, that Sunday’s game will be the first since the Martin Hanzal/Ryan White pickups that the Wild dresses its full allotment of players.
Jordan Schroeder and Tyler Graovac were the extras in practice.
The Wild’s intrigued to see how the group meshes, especially because the Chicago Blackhawks are in a refuse-to-lose state right now. Friday night, Artemi Panarin scored a late tying goal to force overtime and an eventual shootout win for Chicago’s 11th win in 12 games.
That pulled the Hawks within a point of the Wild. Tonight, in Nashville, the Hawks can actually pull ahead of Minnesota, although the Wild will have three games in hand going into the San Jose game. Quite a run by the Hawks.
“We have a lot of really good players,” Parise said. “We have four really solid good lines. We are a really deep team. You have to put it altogether. We are going to continue to try to do that and work and find some line combinations that hopefully we can stick with. You know, Chicago keeps winning, and we want to stay ahead of them, so we have to make sure that we're sharp.”
The Sharks are 5-0-2 in their past seven.
As for Parise and Pominville, remember, they practiced with the Wild last Sunday night in the Wild’s first get-together after the bye.
That night, they went to sleep. Pominville woke up in the middle of the night with a sore side of his face, but he didn’t get up to look in the mirror. When he woke up the morning of the Kings game, he did, then called the Wild’s medical trainer. John Worley told Pominville get to the doctor.
Pominville showed up, and there was Parise, who woke up with a scary lump on his neck. Later, the Wild’s team services head honcho showed up, then the Wild’s massage therapist. By this time, Stevens had already been diagnosed with the mumps.
“I thought it was pretty energetic out there,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of Parise and Pominville in practice. “I mean they haven’t played for a while, but … I thought the whole practice had a lot of energy in it. They looked OK.”
Parise said he never felt sick from the mumps. Pominville had a fever. Stevens and the Wild team services guy, Andrew Heydt, were hit the hardest.
“I had to stay a good distance away from [my wife and kids] just as a little safety for the last five or six days,” Parise said. “That was a little challenging. That's never fun. A lot of Clorox wipes around the house. A lot of washing the hands and wearing a mask around the house. Luckily that's over.”
What did Parise do? “I just sat around the house. I still hung around the kids and stuff. But I didn't dare leave the house. I'd get a couple weird looks if I did. It was pretty boring staying home and not doing much.”
Pominville said, “To be honest, it wasn’t that bad. … I had a fever and stuff like that but I didn’t get it as bad as some guys a couple of the years ago because of the booster shot we got a couple years ago.
“I was in my room pretty much the whole time. My wife would bring me my food in the room. I think the toughest part about it is, with it being public, everyone knows, so now when you walk around, everyone is kind of looking at you like, ‘What are you doing out here?’ So everyone is kind of looking at you differently but I just tried to stay away. They got their shots too, so everyone should be fine. And I think with us, having those shots two years ago, and you’re really not supposed to be getting it, our chances of being contagious dropped tremendously because of that. Hopefully no one gets it.”
Stevens, too, is “happy to be back. Too much time at home,” said Stevens, who like Parise and Pominville, missed three games. Between naps, Stevens did a lot of computer and video work from home. He didn’t enjoy watching the games on television, though.
“It’s hard enough to be behind the bench and watch. I’d rather be on the ice playing,” the Hall of Fame defenseman said. “But watching the games on TV, … my wife left the room a couple times.”
Boudreau’s goal now is to find four consistent lines after changing three of them so much lately.
Eric Staal centered Parise and Chris Stewart (Boudreau liked how Stewart played with Staal Thursday in Columbus), the Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund line remained intact, Martin Hanzal centered a huge line with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle and Pominville skated with Erik Haula and Ryan White.
I still think Pominville and Stewart eventually switch.
Boudreau is intrigued by the Hanzal line, and he met individually with every line to tell them what he expected after working hard trying to find the proper fits.
“I told them, I had [Ryan] Getzlaf, [Corey] Perry and either [Dustin] Penner or whoever [in Anaheim], and they just controlled the puck below the circles,” Boudreau said. “I don’t see why these three can’t do the same.”
Said Coyle, who has no points and is minus-7 in the past seven games, “We’ve got a big line, so we’ve got to play that way. Be a good defensive, be a good shutdown line, be able to contribute offensively, too. We just need to use our size, we know how to do that, we’re capable of doing that and hanging onto the puck down low. It’s there for us. it’s up to us to see how we play. We have to play big though.”
Pominville, who had 24 points in 22 games before getting the mumps, says he wants to return already, especially with 20 games in the final 35 days starting Sunday.
“I feel good, there’s not going to be a lot of practices [the rest of the season], so you want to be in there and play and get back in to where you need to be,” he said. “We, fortunately, had that good skate on Sunday. If we didn’t, this would have been eight, nine days without skating. … Today was a good practice and we’ll go from there.”
Parise said, “It was fun to be back. You feel like you haven't played in such a long time with the break and the mumps. It feels like it's been a long time. It's nice to be back skating.”
Anyways, the Wild hopes the mumps are history since nobody has reported symptoms in a week.
“I hope they’re behind us and not anywhere around us,” Boudreau said. “They all seem healthy, but we’ll see.”k