Zach Parise was among 14 skaters who participated in the Wild's optional practice Friday at Xcel Energy Center. The winger wasn't completely healed from the high stick he took in the right eye Tuesday; though the swelling had gone down, he still was bruised around the eye. But after sitting out Thursday's victory over Ottawa, Parise said he plans to play Saturday at Nashville.
Parise said it was "scary'' to get hit in the eye with the stick of Capitals winger Tom Wilson. His fears eased when he opened the eye and quickly realized he could see, though it quickly swelled up and was difficult to open for the past couple of days. When he went home after Tuesday's game, his injured face scared his children, but he was grateful it wasn't worse.
"It's gotten better every day, and hopefully, it will keep progressing,'' said Parise, who has missed games this season because of strep throat, a lower-body injury, the mumps and now the eye injury. "I'm going to travel (to Nashville). I feel like I could play, so I'm going to plan on it.
"It's always scary when you get hit in the eye. It's always scary opening your eye for the first time, just praying that nothing happened, nothing too serious. I got really lucky that it wasn’t anything worse. ... When you do get hit in the eye, you keep your eyes closed, and you don’t know how bad it is or how much damage is done. So that was a scary thing. I can see now, so it's good.''
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday's game will be "a good test'' for his team. The Predators have lost consecutive games to Boston and Toronto, preventing them from clinching their playoff berth. They can wrap it up with a victory over the Wild and a Los Angeles loss tonight at Vancouver. The game also has implications for the Wild's first-round playoff matchup; a victory increases their chances of starting against St. Louis, while a loss makes it more likely they will get Nashville.
"Nashville's got a lot to fight for, and we've got a lot to fight for,'' Boudreau said. "They've lost two in a row for the first time this month. I think they'll be ready to play. We're going to get their best game, that's for sure.''
Boudreau said he had decided which goaltenders would start in the back-to-back games this weekend, including a Sunday home game against Colorado. He wouldn't share that information, however. All three were on the ice for Friday's practice, with Alex Stalock coming off first and packing for the trip in his temporary locker-room stall. Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper stayed on the ice for extra work after all skaters had finished.
Boudreau praised Stalock, who was recalled from Iowa on Wednesday, started Thursday against Ottawa and stopped 18 of 19 shots.
"I thought he did a good job of moving side to side and looking square and everything else,'' the coach said. "And he was into the game. But I don’t think (Ottawa) had seven scoring chances, so I don’t think it was a real indicator of how good he is--even though I know how good he is.
"He played great against my team in Anaheim a few times. And the one exhibition game we had that he played in, in Buffalo, he stopped 42 shots. We won 3-2, and he was great. He did everything that was asked of him, and that's all you can really ask.''