Five days after Erik Haula returned to the Wild lineup after a long layoff despite the benefit of only one practice, Zach Parise could be doing the same when the Wild opens a three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
Parise, who has been on the ice working with skating and skills instructor Andy Ness for more than an hour a day the past seven days, practiced for the first time Monday since suffering a foot injury Oct. 27.
“Every day I’ve skated, it’s been better and better. Today was no different,” Parise said. “We’ll take the morning skate [Tuesday] and see where it’s at and go from there. But it felt really good.”
The Wild treaded water at 3-3 in Parise’s absence, and his return would significantly deepen the lineup.
“He’s a goal scorer,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s going to help everywhere he goes. There’s not a lot of teams that can withstand losing their best offensive forward.”
With the Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle line churning along well, Jason Zucker moved up to the Mikael Granlund-Mikko Koivu line during Monday’s practice and Parise skated on the left side of Erik Haula and Jason Pominville.
“It deepens everything,” Pominville said. “Our 5-on-5 play, it deepens our special teams, whether penalty kill or power play. You want him in the lineup. You want to see him healthy because we all know what he can bring. Just having back in the room is going to be nice, too.”
Boudreau made it clear, “If Zach’s ready to play, he’ll play.”
Parise indicated that as long as he feels good in Tuesday’s morning skate, he can play with only one practice.
“It’s not like I got out of shape or anything,” he said. “I didn’t feel a step behind or anything out there, so I don’t see why not. But we’ll find out.”
Parise’s return should aid a power play that ranks 21st in the NHL at 14.3 percent. On the recent 2-1 road trip, it went 1-for-8 and fell to a league-worst 2-for-28 (7.1 percent) on the road.
“He’s a world class type player,” said Staal. “He’s not going to hurt it. We’ve got to stay positive [on the power play], stay upbeat and trust our instincts and just play. We’ve gotten guilty of thinking a little too much instead of just letting the puck do the work, moving the puck quickly and reading the game. We’re all on it for a reason.”