The combination was eventually scrapped, with winger Zach Parise settling elsewhere in the Wild’s lineup after he debuted in training camp next to center Eric Staal and winger Mats Zuccarello.
But now that winger Jason Zucker is healing up a fractured fibula, Parise is back on the top line next to Staal and Zuccarello — a reunion that could help boost a shorthanded Wild offense seeking stability.
“I thought he was ready,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of Parise and his promotion. “In training camp, sometimes guys start slower and they don’t look as well as they do midseason. Look at all our older guys: they’re in the same boat pretty well. Staal’s playing good, and Zach would probably want to jump up there.”
All three players were effective Thursday in Arizona, their first game together since the switch. Staal and Zuccarello each registered a goal and two assists, with Zuccarello delivering the game-winner in an 8-5 win over the Coyotes. Parise had two assists.
And while the entire team was stymied Saturday afternoon in a 6-0 thrashing by the Jets, the line had some of the Wild’s best looks — combining for four shots, three of which belonged to Parise. Overall, the unit had 13 shot attempts.
“We’ve had a lot of good puck possession, a lot of good zone time, a lot of good entries, scoring chances,” Parise said. “They didn’t go in [Saturday]. But going back to Phoenix, we’re making plays with the puck, we’re talking, and right now hopefully they keep us together and we can keep building on it. But the plays were there.”
Jets captain and Plymouth native Blake Wheeler became the franchise’s all-time points leader at 616 by scoring Saturday and adding an assist.
Wheeler, a former Gopher, passed Ilya Kovalchuk, who had 615 points when the team was in Atlanta.
“It’s not something I’ve set out to do or thought about,” Wheeler said. “I really feel like the product of some good teams, and I’ve played on some really good lines. I play a lot of minutes, so I just feel fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had here and the guys I get to play with every night. It’s not going to be long before one of these guys on this team passes me, and that will be a good moment, too.”
On the mend
Zucker just didn’t return to finish the game after he was knocked down by a dump-in attempt last Sunday in Chicago, a slapshot by the Blackhawks’ Brent Seabrook.
He also thought he would play the next contest Tuesday in Vegas.
It wasn’t until he went for a CT scan that the team learned Zucker was operating on a broken leg that will require four to six weeks to heal. He underwent surgery Friday.
“Every team is saying the same thing, ‘Next man up,’ ” Boudreau said. “But he was starting to play pretty good. The group was going good. So, it is what it is.”
Boudreau anticipates center Joel Eriksson Ek will practice Sunday and play this week. Eriksson Ek has been sidelined since getting hit by the Flyers’ Sean Couturier on Dec. 14.
Captain Mikko Koiuv, out since Dec. 3 (lower-body injury), is feeling better, Boudreau said, but needs to practice. It’s unclear, though, if he’ll skate solo Sunday or with the team.
Boudreau also said defenseman Greg Pateryn, who is dealing with a lower-body injury, is skating but not at full speed.