Like everyone else at Xcel Energy Center, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was horrified to see Zach Parise crumple to the ice Tuesday after taking a high stick to the eye. A day later, Boudreau felt a wave of relief when he learned Parise was not seriously injured.
The coach said Parise was bruised and sore after the incident, which happened during the first period of the Wild’s 5-4 overtime loss to Washington. The winger isn’t likely to play in Thursday’s home game against Ottawa, but Boudreau doesn’t expect him to be out long. Parise was hurt when the Capitals’ Tom Wilson accidentally stuck him in the eye; as he fell, he compounded the injury when he struck his head on Jay Beagle’s leg.
“His eye looks pretty black and blue, but he can see, and he’s fine as far as that goes,” Boudreau said Wednesday, after the Wild’s practice. “He’s a little sore on his upper body. I don’t think he’s going to play [against Ottawa], but at the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if after the weekend, he’s ready to go.”
Boudreau said everyone on the Wild’s bench was concerned when Parise struggled to get to his feet. “At the beginning, you’re going, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” he said. “As a hockey player, you’ve seen it happen, where there are serious eye injuries to people. You just pray it’s not serious.”
Kloos heads south
Four days after the Gophers’ season ended with a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Notre Dame, Justin Kloos put his college career in the rearview mirror. The Gophers senior captain signed a two-year, $1.4 million entry-level deal with the Wild on Wednesday, then drove south to Iowa to report to his new team.
The two-way contract starts next season and includes $92,500 in signing bonuses and a $70,000 minor league salary. Kloos will immediately join the AHL’s Iowa Wild on an amateur tryout agreement. He anticipates making his pro debut during its current homestand, either Friday against Chicago or Sunday against Cleveland.
During a four-year career with the Gophers, the 5-9, 180-pound Kloos scored 150 points and played in all 155 games. He finished this season with 18 goals and 25 assists, was named the team’s most valuable player and was a first-team all-Big Ten selection. As excited as the Lakeville native is to be joining the hometown organization, Kloos said his choice was about more than logistics.
“The way they play and the opportunity they have in the middle of the ice — both down in Iowa and at the NHL level — is really attractive for me,” said Kloos, who also drew interest from Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose. “I don’t think they have a ton of players quite like me.
“So I think I can bring a different aspect. Hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity to make a good impression down here in Iowa and go from there.”
The Wild also is pursuing Union College forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker Award finalist and the school’s leading scorer. The ECAC Hockey player of the year concluded his college career with 175 points, including 63 this season. Other NHL teams reported to be interested in Vecchione are the Rangers, Philadelphia, Boston, Tampa Bay and Detroit.
Eriksson Ek returns
Joel Eriksson Ek didn’t display any effects of jet lag Wednesday, when he participated in the Wild’s practice after traveling Tuesday from Sweden. The forward was recalled after his team in the Swedish Elite League, Farjestad BK, ended its season with a playoff loss.
Eriksson Ek, who started the season with the Wild, can play center or left wing. Boudreau put him at center for Wednesday’s practice, but he isn’t sure yet which position will be the best fit. The coach said he won’t be able to assess Eriksson Ek’s improvement until he plays, though he quickly noticed the 6-2 forward had put on weight.
“He looks bigger and stronger,” said Boudreau, who had not decided whether Eriksson Ek would play Thursday. “He’s 205 pounds now. He wasn’t 205 when he first got here.
“He’s starting to grow into his body. He’s been a great player in Europe, and he was good for us here earlier on.”
Eriksson Ek, 20, had two goals and three assists in nine games with the Wild before being returned to Sweden. He played 26 games for Farjestad, with eight goals and eight assists.
Staff writer Michael Russo contributed to this report.