Zach Parise understood why his 3-year-old twins were frightened when they saw his face late Tuesday night. The Wild winger was scared, too, in the moments after taking a stick blade in the right eye.
As it turned out, their fears were short-lived. Parise, sporting an angry purple bruise under the eye, practiced Friday at Xcel Energy Center and plans to play Saturday at Nashville. Three days after the incident, he said he felt good and is hopeful his steady recovery will continue.
Parise was hurt early in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Washington when the Capitals’ Tom Wilson inadvertently poked his stick into Parise’s face; as Parise fell, he also struck his head on another player. While he lay on the ice, Parise realized he still was able to see. That eased his mind, even as his eye quickly swelled shut and remained difficult to open for two days.
“The kids were a little scared,” said Parise, who needed a few stitches to repair wounds around the eye. “They didn’t really know what was going on. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t open my eye.
“It’s a scary thing when you get hit in the eye; you keep your eyes closed, and you don’t know how bad it is or how much damage was done. … Opening your eye for the first time, you’re just praying that nothing happened, nothing too serious. I guess I got really lucky that it wasn’t anything worse.”
Parise sat out Thursday’s 5-1 victory over Ottawa, continuing a star-crossed season in which he has missed games because of strep throat, the mumps, a lower-body injury and the eye injury. He watched a replay of the high-sticking incident and called it “one of those accidental things.”
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said he has decided which goaltenders will start Saturday at Nashville and Sunday against Colorado at Xcel Energy Center. He would not disclose his plans, but Alex Stalock might have earned the Saturday start with his solid play in Thursday’s 5-1 victory over Ottawa.
Stalock, who was called up Wednesday from the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, stopped 18 of 19 shots in his Wild debut. All three goalies participated in Friday’s optional practice; Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper put in extra work at the end and were the last players to leave the ice.
Boudreau said Thursday that he thought Dubnyk looked “tired.” While Dubnyk said he isn’t, he speculated that the stress of a challenging month led his coach to decide he needed rest.
“You see what [Boudreau is] saying,” said Dubnyk, who is 2-7-2 since March 7 with a goals-against average of 3.31 and save percentage of .871. “With the results we’ve had, it starts to wear on you. That’s the danger for everybody personally and as a group, when you have a prolonged time of not getting wins and losing games.
“As it goes on and on, it gets harder. And that’s probably where it starts to look like where [Boudreau] says, ‘You look tired.’ It’s impossible not to let it wear on you. You’re a competitive athlete, and you want to win.”
In these situations, Dubnyk said, it’s important for players to define themselves by their best performances and not their worst. Not playing Thursday — and sharing in the joy and relief of a victory — allowed him to take a step back and reset his perspective.
“You need to sometimes take a breath and realize it’s not that bad,” Dubnyk said. “You always need to sharpen up, but you don’t need to go back to the drawing board and reinvent what you’re doing. There’s no need. It’s all right there.”
During its current 1-0-2 streak, the Wild has not allowed any opponent more than 20 shots per game. Boudreau cited that statistic as a highlight of his team’s improved play.
The coach praised his players for limiting turnovers, getting pucks deep and clearing rebounds and loose pucks in front of the net. Forward Charlie Coyle added that the Wild is forcing opponents to the outside with tight, disciplined defense.
“That’s our main thing. We don’t want to let anyone in between us,” Coyle said. “When we play good defense, we feed off that.”