The Wild started the season without Zach Parise, and the winger is likely to miss the end of it, too.
Parise is probably lost for the season after suffering a fractured sternum in Game 3 Sunday against the Jets, a tough blow the team revealed only hours before Game 4, which the Wild lost 2-0 to Winnipeg at Xcel Energy Center.
The team said Parise was sidelined week to week, but typically such an injury requires up to two months to heal.
“I really feel bad for him,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When we found out [Monday], the sadness on his face … here’s a guy who has worked so hard to get back to where he was, and so hard to want to play for his hometown and bring glory, and he finally gets to that spot, and this happens.”
The Wild is already without top defenseman Ryan Suter (broken ankle). Parise and Suter are the team’s highest paid players, at $9 million each this season.
Late in the third period of the 6-2 victory over the Jets, Parise was hit by Winnipeg’s Ben Chiarot and Mark Scheifele, getting sandwiched by the two after batting the puck forward with his glove. Parise took one more shift for 13 seconds, then didn’t play the rest of the way.
This isn’t the first time Parise has been absent this season; he sat out the first 39 games after undergoing back surgery to repair a herniated disc that caused leg pain and weakness. Once he returned, though, he began to boost the Wild’s offense by giving the team another dynamic line after it relied on mostly one through the first half.
In 42 games, Parise racked up 15 goals and 24 points. That goal-scoring touch carried over to the postseason, as Parise scored in each of the team’s first three games against the Jets; his three goals led the series.
“You’re not 100 percent sure what the lines are coming into the game ... so it really didn’t change our game plan,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice.
Myers out, Poolman in
The Wild wasn’t the only team missing a roster regular. The Jets were without defenseman Tyler Myers.
Myers got tangled up Sunday with Wild winger Marcus Foligno after Foligno fell to the ice following a shot-block attempt and suffered a leg injury. Before getting hurt, the 6-8 defender had two goals and an assist in the series.
Myers’ absence allowed rookie Tucker Poolman of East Grand Forks, Minn., to make his playoff debut.
A fifth-round draft pick by the Jets in 2013, Poolman played at East Grand Forks High and North Dakota. He appeared in 24 regular-season games this year and partnered with Ben Chiarot on Tuesday.
“It’s exciting,” Poolman said. “It’s kind of like college and [those] playoff games, or playing your first game. At the end of the day, it’s still hockey. You go out and do your job.”
Poolman played a team-low 11 shifts and had 8:17 of ice time. Defensemen Dustin Byfuglien (28:05) and Jacob Trouba (26:06) ate up big minutes for the Jets.
After a 6-2 loss Sunday, Maurice was much happier with his team’s effort Tuesday, one that gave the Jets a 3-1 series lead.
“We skated harder, better, faster tonight,” he said.
He was particularly pleased with his top line of Mark Scheifele centering Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler. Scheifele scored in the first period and added an empty-netter.
“Sometimes you need your drivers to be the difference in the game,” Maurice said. “They were the one line that we had that had sustained offense, generated zone pressure, scored the big goal at the end of the first period.”
Game 5 is Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Winnipeg.
With Parise out, the Wild inserted winger Tyler Ennis in the lineup for Game 4 — his first appearance of the series after being a healthy scratch. It was Ennis’ first playoff action since 2011, when he scored two goals and finished with four points in seven games with the Sabres.
Ennis played only 7:14 in 10 shifts and was on the ice for Winnipeg’s even-strength goal.
Ennis started on the third line alongside center Matt Cullen and winger Charlie Coyle. Winger Jason Zucker took Parise’s spot on the left side next to captain Mikko Koivu, with winger Jordan Greenway filling out the line. Eric Staal centered wingers Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund; the fourth unit featuring Foligno and Daniel Winnik and center Joel Eriksson Ek remained intact.
With Parise out, Cullen wore the “A” as alternate captain.
Sunday was a memorable night for the entire Foligno family.
Not only did Marcus score his first career playoff goal in a much-needed Wild victory, but his brother and Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno helped the Blue Jackets win in Washington to take a 2-0 lead in their series.
“He was fired up,” Marcus said. “He was on the bus, so we couldn’t talk too loud. But I was happy for them going up 2-0 against Washington. Those were some pretty big wins in overtime. I’m excited for them going back to Columbus.”
The two text almost every day, but Marcus has also stayed in touch with his dad and former NHLer Mike Foligno.
“My dad’s loving it,” Marcus said. “He’s got no voice. He was yelling at the TV [Sunday] night. I think with him playing, when he played, I think he still gets that energy, gets that adrenaline pumping when he sees us play.”