Just last season, Zach Parise was the Wild's leading goal scorer and a fixture on the team's power play.

This year, Parise's production has dipped, his minutes have declined, and he was a healthy scratch for the first time in his Wild career.

But in his return from a stint on the NHL's COVID list, the 36-year-old veteran winger is working to earn more opportunity with the Wild.

"It has been frustrating," Parise said. "It's been pretty unique where my role has definitely changed here, not being on the power play and not playing as much. It's a bit of an adjustment. That's definitely been challenging.

"At that point, you just try to make the most of what you're getting and when you are called upon to go out there, try to make an impact in any way that you can."

Parise was back in the Wild's lineup Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center when the team wrapped up its regular season series with the Avalanche after he sat out the previous seven games.

On March 24, Parise entered the NHL's COVID protocols and was removed last Saturday, getting back on the ice over the weekend while the team was on the road.

"I'm not convinced that I had it, to be honest," Parise said. "I felt nothing the whole time that I was out."

Numbers down

Before his season paused, Parise looked to be turning a corner with his game, but he was still searching for his first goal since Feb. 24.

Overall, he had just three when he went into the protocols to go along with nine assists. His average ice time through 29 games was 15 minutes, 35 seconds — well below his career average of 18:23 and even the 17:12 he averaged in 2019-20 when he paced the Wild in goals (25) and tied for the most power play points with 18.

This season, he has only two assists on the power play where he's played infrequently — sometimes logging multiple minutes a game and other times remaining on the bench during the man advantage.

"You don't really have a choice but to accept it," said Parise, who has led the Wild in goals for five seasons since signing a 13-year, $98 million contract in 2012. "You just accept what you're given and do your best when you are out there. Most importantly, too, is [to] practice the right way and work on my game as much as I can so if there is an opportunity to get on the power play, or there is an opportunity to get out there more, I'm ready to go."

And Parise believes he can still be the player who contributes in those situations for the Wild.

"Of course," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that I am and that I can be. I definitely want to show that I can play the game and play the game the right way."

Injury update

Mats Zuccarello also returned against the Avalanche after missing the previous two games with a lower-body injury, but Nick Bjugstad (upper-body injury) didn't play.

Bjugstad didn't finish Monday's game, leaving after a third-period fight with Colorado's Kyle Burroughs. Earlier that night, Bjugstad had a goal and assist to register his first career Gordie Howe hat trick.


Kyle Rau cleared waivers on Wednesday and remained on the Wild's fourth line vs. the Avalanche.