Zach Parise wasn’t just focusing on hockey.
He was also contemplating the implications of a potential trade from the Wild and how it might affect his family.
“All of a sudden,” he said, “you just get stressed out a bit.”
That was Parise’s reality leading up to last month’s NHL trade deadline, as he waited to find out what would happen after he and the Wild discussed his status and the team explored the possibility of moving its leading goal scorer.
But since getting clarity on his situation — at least for the time being, as the Wild decided to hold on to the winger — Parise has been able to relax and make an impact during the team’s push to the playoffs, which continues Thursday against Vegas at Xcel Energy Center.
“You just play the game and you just get kind of engulfed in the playoff race and that excitement,” he said.
During the five games before the Feb. 24 deadline, Parise was mired in a dry spell. The 35-year-old winger had no goals, just one assist and was a minus player four times.
In the eight games after learning he’d be sticking with the Wild, Parise racked up four goals and five assists, a run that included a four-game goal streak and five-game point streak.
One of those goals, last Thursday in San Jose, was a game-winner. Overall, his 25 are the most on the Wild.
“I just feel more comfortable with the puck,” Parise said. “For whatever reason, it’s been a streaky year for me. It’s been really hot and then really cold. But I feel comfortable with the puck right now, and that’s always a good feeling.”
Parise worked with the team’s other offensive catalyst of late, Kevin Fiala, during the last road trip, with the two combining for six points during the 2-1 trek through California. But when the team reconvened for practice Wednesday, the duo was split up. Parise was reunited with center Joel Eriksson Ek and right winger Luke Kunin, and Fiala skated with left winger Jordan Greenway and center Eric Staal, who rejoined the team following the death of his father-in-law.
After missing all three games on the trip, Staal said he felt fine getting back to practice Wednesday. He also skated Monday and Tuesday,
“I appreciate the Wild giving me the opportunity to be there with my family and have that time,” Staal said.
“He was a great person and someone that supported me a lot over the years.”
Staal’s return puts one of the Wild’s best offensive performers back on the ice, as his 19 goals trail only Parise and Fiala (23). His addition can also enhance a lineup balance that has headlined the Wild’s recent 8-3 takeoff.
“We feel that we’re a depth team that has four lines and six ‘D’ on a given night and obviously two goaltenders that can perform,” interim coach Dean Evason said. “We go into it with that mind-set.”
Still, the scoring leaders — including Parise — are setting the tone.
“He knows his strengths,” Fiala said.
“He’s very strong around the net, good at tipping, the rebounds, the dirty goals. Those kind of goals [are] actually not easy to do. You’ve got to go in there with cross-checks. You’ve got to fight through the positions, through the guys, so it’s a very tough thing to do. It actually looks very easy on him.”
What Parise’s future looks like is unclear, as trade speculation could reignite down the road.
In the meantime, Parise has peace of mind, and that seems to be helping the Wild’s pursuit of the playoffs.
“Everyone’s excited,” he said. “We’re excited to practice. We’re excited for the games. When you have something like that on the line, it’s so much more fun to come to the rink.”