As frustrating as it has been for Wild fans to watch their team slide in the standings, it’s been even harder for Zach Parise. The Wild’s leader in goals and points has missed the past four games because of a lower-body injury, a costly absence for a scoring-starved team.
Though Parise felt much better after Monday’s practice at Tria Rink, it’s uncertain whether he will play Tuesday against Winnipeg at Xcel Energy Center. And if the forward sits out again, it’s possible he won’t return this season.
If the Wild is eliminated from playoff contention, which could happen as soon as Tuesday, Parise said “I think you’d have to take a look at” whether he should play in any remaining games.
Colorado’s 3-2 shootout loss at St. Louis on Monday gave the Avalanche a five-point lead over the Wild for the second wild-card playoff berth. That means that if the Wild loses in regulation Tuesday, Colorado wins or if both teams lose in overtime or a shootout, the Wild will be eliminated from playoff contention.
Parise said “it’s terrible” that the Wild now depends on a Colorado stumble in order to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. Though he is hopeful he can play, and perhaps help his team stave off elimination, that also is not fully within his control. The Wild’s training staff will determine his status Tuesday morning.
“It’s better than the last time I skated, so that’s a good thing,” said Parise, who has 26 goals and 59 points. “I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. But [Monday] was the best it’s felt since it happened.
“Until we’re out, you don’t want to sit on the sidelines when you feel like you could play. As long as we’re in it, I’m going to do my best to come back and play.”
Parise participated fully in Monday’s practice.
Putting the puck into the net continues to be a struggle, the main reason that Hockey Reference has dropped the team’s chances of making the playoffs to 0.9 percent.
The Wild has scored nine goals — and only three at even strength — in its past seven games, despite generating 223 shots on goal. It has been shut out twice in its past three. In Sunday’s 4-0 loss at Arizona, the Wild outshot the Coyotes 39-23 and misfired on multiple high-percentage chances.
That’s been frustrating for coach Bruce Boudreau, who is used to overseeing offensive-minded teams. Still, Boudreau continued to laud the Wild for its work ethic and attitude.
“Obviously, when you get a breakaway and you miss, you’re not happy with that, right?” he said. “But you’re happy that the effort is there, the compete level is there, and that the guys have not thrown in the towel. And I don’t think they ever will.
“Just keep trying. That’s all you can say. Just keep going at it, and never give up.’’