TORONTO – Zach Parise is wearing the sign of frustration on his face, but he’s also trying to keep his head up, too.
After scoring in consecutive games on the Wild’s last homestand, the veteran left wing hasn’t had a point in the first four games of a five-game trip that finally ends Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs.
But, after coach Bruce Boudreau flipped Parise and Nino Niederreiter on their lines Sunday in Edmonton, Parise had four Grade A opportunities. The forward with a history of scoring hopes it’s a sign of things to come.
“That’s what you look for, trying to get good looks, a lot of good chances,” Parise said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t go in, but there were some good scoring chances.”
He hit a post, was denied on two breakaways (one when the puck was poke-checked off his stick in overtime) and he hit a defender on an open net after a delayed penalty.
Parise, who entered this season with 105 goals in 259 games with the Wild, has four goals and five assists in 17 games this season. He has 52 shots (3.1 per game) and a .076 shooting percentage.
Asked how tough it has been to not score at his usual pace, he said: “It’s been frustrating. But that’s the way it goes. You just keep working. You get through it, you keep shooting the puck. It’s just different.
“Had I scored last game, you feel great and everything changes. Unfortunately you don’t on those good chances, and it is frustrating not getting rewarded when you work hard and do the right things. It evens out. You have to get through these times when it just feels like it doesn’t want to go in and you feel like nothing’s going right. It’s one of those times in the year where you get through it, look forward and hopefully in a little while it’s a memory, and that’s it.”
After Friday’s loss in Calgary, Boudreau said he wasn’t happy with Parise’s skating, saying he looked sluggish and methodical. Parise blocked three shots in that game, and after one he struggled to his feet.
But Parise insists he’s healthy despite missing the playoffs last season because of a herniated disk and six games last month because of a leg injury.
As for Boudreau saying he wasn’t skating well, Parise laughed and said, “He changed his mind after he watched the tape. That’s what I heard, I don’t know.”
Regardless, Boudreau liked what he saw with Parise on the left side of Erik Haula and Jason Pominville in Edmonton, which is why Niederreiter will stick with Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle to at least start Wednesday’s game.
Boudreau believes the number of chances Parise had is a positive sign toward an eventual breakout.
“My dad used to tell me that every time I played: ‘Are you getting chances? How many shots on goal did you get?’ ” Boudreau said. “That was his criteria as to whether things were going to start to go good for you or you better get your butt in gear.”
The Wild has beaten Toronto six consecutive times, but Boudreau wants no letdown Wednesday against a Maple Leafs team that has been high-powered at home (six goals in three of its past four home wins).
Boudreau’s Ducks and Capitals teams were 4-5-3 all-time in Toronto, 0-3-1 in their past four (outscored 23-10 with a .781 save percentage).
“I have enough trouble winning in Toronto when I come, so I hope we’re ready to play,” the coach said. “We’re coming off a pretty good win in Edmonton, and we’d like to continue this because then we’ll have a good stretch at home.”
In Tuesday’s practice, defenseman Matt Dumba (one goal, two assists on the power play and a penchant for turnovers) was removed from the power play and Pominville replaced him at the point of the second unit.
The Wild is 0-for-9 on the road trip on power plays.
“We’ve got to try something. It’s been going in fits and starts,” Boudreau said. “Hopefully we get two one game and it’ll jump-start us again.”