TAMPA – At least Zach Parise's keeping his sense of humor while he once again manages a knee injury.
Parise's pal and teammate Chris Porter lightheartedly played the role of spokesman Friday afternoon when reporters tiptoed over to get the latest health update on one of the Wild's most important players after he practiced.
Parise could have simply moved his lips while Porter provided the answers.
"It's tough to sit out. … I want to be there for my teammates. … I want to play," Porter kidded as Parise laughed.
Finally, Parise got serious though and acknowledged for the first time he has indeed aggravated the right knee injury that caused him to miss eight games in November.
"It felt great for a long time," said Parise, who has 11 goals and 22 points in 27 games. "A 10-game stretch after I came back, it felt normal like nothing happened and then it kind of went the other way."
Parise said there wasn't a single incident that set him back.
"It just felt like every game something happened, and it just got worse and worse," he said. "Things happened, and it started to not feel good anything. So I'm just trying to play it a little safe."
Parise said he's trying to avoid the injury from lingering all season.
"That's the biggest thing," Parise said. "I don't want to be dealing with it going into February and March and April. That's the hard part right now is trying to manage it, I guess."
But Parise's stubborn. He missed Thursday's game in St. Louis. The smart thing could be to sit out a few more and rest. Yet there he was practicing Friday and saying afterward that there's a chance he plays Saturday night against the Lightning provided his knee responded well the rest of Friday and feels good after Saturday's morning skate.
"If I feel good, I'd like to play," he said, laughing, knowing he was contradicting the fact he had just said he doesn't want the injury to linger. "I'll see how the morning goes."
Friday's practice wasn't an incredibly intense practice, but Parise took part in a 3-on-3 competition at the end and felt good. He also assumed his usual spot on the No. 1 power-play unit and skated line rushes, but that could have just been because center Erik Haula missed Friday's practice with upper-body soreness.
Haula got tossed around during a late scrum with Blues bruiser Ryan Reaves on Thursday, but coach Mike Yeo joked Haula's pain could have stemmed from his exuberant "celebration" on his third-period winning goal.
Yeo said he thinks Haula will be able to play Saturday.
If Parise plays, Yeo said there's a "very good chance" he'll have to shuffle the Nino Niederreiter-Haula-Justin Fontaine line that was so good against St. Louis.
"We bounced a bunch of different scenarios around today and until we know if [Parise's] going to play or not, it's best we put it [the line decisions] off until [Saturday]," Yeo said.
Regardless, Yeo doesn't want his team getting overly concerned about whether Parise plays Saturday, especially because it may make sense to at least hold him out until Sunday's game at Florida so he doesn't play back-to-back.
The Wild won a big game Thursday in St. Louis. It has a chance to make this a quality four-game road trip if it keeps its foot on the gas.
"We have to make sure we're prepared for [the Lightning]," Yeo said. "They didn't stumble their way to the Stanley Cup Final last year by accident. This will be a good challenge. That's still a very, very dangerous team over there and we have to make sure that we're ready for their best."
With back-to-back road games and no extra defensemen on the roster, the Wild recalled Tyson Strachan as insurance.