So much for Zach Parise being “doubtful” for the weekend games against the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars.
Parise is questionable if not probable for Friday’s 3 p.m. game with the Jets after taking part in his first full practice since being injured Nov. 5 against the Nashville Predators.
Parise, who did not feel good during last Saturday’s morning skate, said he felt much better during Wednesday’s morning skate and very good during today’s short Thanksgiving practice at Xcel Energy Center.
“It was a pretty big change in the way it felt from Saturday to Wednesday, there was a big difference,” Parise said. “It was kind of quick and jumping right back into practice, but I didn’t feel like I was behind or anything.”
Parise said he doesn’t know yet if he’ll play against the Jets. The Wild is 4-3-1 without him, 1-3-1 in its past five.
“Hopefully,” he said about playing Friday. “We’ll see how it responds. I felt good, felt comfortable doing everything. We’ll see. I’m not sure yet.”
Parise said because he has been a little too eager coming back from previous injuries (the broken foot two seasons ago), it’ll be a group decision with the doctors, trainers and coaches.
Coach Mike Yeo said the Wild has two plans depending on whether Parise plays or whether he doesn’t. If he doesn’t play, Jordan Schroeder well. If he does play, my guess Schroeder is a whisker away from being returned to AHL Iowa because Justin Fontaine, who won’t play Friday, is likely to return Saturday against Dallas.
“[Parise] will go back, he’ll talk to the doctors and we’ll talk with him and see how he felt today, and if he’s confident and he’s ready, then he’ll play,” Yeo said. “And if he doesn’t feel quite there, then we’ll hold him out.”
But Yeo said Parise is medically cleared to return.
“If he wasn’t, if we had any kind of concerns or uncertainty, we would hold him out,” Yeo said. “He’s had kind of one practice with the group. Like I said, he’ll have a conversation and talk about how he feels. He’s got to have full confidence that physically that he’s ready to go, but as much as anything else, it’s about your conditioning and your timing and feeling like you’re ready.”
The Wild didn’t do typical line rushes today, but it did do 3-on-2 drills and Parise was on a regular line. The Parise line is the one I suggested the team go with once Tyler Graovac came back.
Defenseman Marco Scandella did skate on his own this morning but is out for the weekend games, Yeo said.
Barring any further injuries, Gabriel will likely be reassigned after the Winnipeg game for Fontaine. Like I said, Schroeder looks like he too could be on his way back.
As you can see, Parise’s appearance alone deepens the Wild lineup dramatically.
“If he is ready to play, then we think we could probably find a place for him in our lineup,” Yeo said, sarcastically. “Today we just experimented with something. We don’t even know if we’ll go with that tomorrow necessarily or not. But, adding one player gives you so many more options. So we’ll see.
“Obviously we’re getting close to being healthy up front. And that is something I think that we’ve felt lately. We’ve been playing guys more, we’ve been using them more, and they’ve done a pretty good job. But I think it just gives us a lot more balanced.”
Parise’s return also should ease things up a little bit for the Zucker-Koivu-Niederreiter line, which is getting all the tough matchups lately against the opponent’s best defensive forwards and defensemen.
“They’re playing bigger minutes and they’re playing harder minutes because of the guys they’re going up against, so it gets us a little closer to having the other team pick their poison, who they want to match up against and we think when we’re healthy that we’ve got a pretty deep group up front with a number of guys that are capable of contributing offensively,” Yeo said.
The one player this does affect is Vanek, who has five goals and two assists in Parise’s eight-game absence.
“His game, even last game, he was working, he was creating,” Yeo said of Vanek. “The last several games he’s been involved in numerous scoring chances every game. I would expect that to continue. Who he’s playing with, that might change from game to game, but he’s the type of player that regardless of who he’s playing with, when he’s on top of his game, he finds a way to create.”
I received a lot of tweets and one email asked me to ask Yeo why he keeps putting Pominville, who has no goals in 20 games, out there in critical situations, like the No. 1 power play and the last minute of a game when the team needs a goal.
Your wish is my command. I asked Yeo.
His answer: “Two games ago was arguably his best game of the year and last game wasn’t. But that was our whole team. That was a group effort. I’d like to see if we can build off two games ago. It’s my job as a coach to always evaluate where a player’s at and what they’re doing right now. It’s also your job as a coach to evaluate what they’re capable of based on what their potential is or what they’ve done in the past. My job as a coach is to try to get the most out of the players, and so I know that Pommer, there’s going to come a time and I have total confidence there’s going to come a time where the puck starts going in for him. That’s what we have to pull out.”
More from the Parise press scrum:
Does he feel pressure to play with the team needing a boost? “They’ve been playing hard. It’s easy to judge the game from atop. It’s not fair for me to comment how they’ve been playing when I’m not in the lineup and wasn’t in the locker room. I know they’ve been playing hard and working hard. But for me it’s been about 9 or 10 games. I’m just hoping to get back to form as quick as possible and go from there. I’m not thinking I need to score right out of the gate, I just want to play.”
Back to the night of the injury, I asked him how he was able to play a full period on the sprained knee: “That was probably stupidity. But I didn’t hear a pop or anything, I just felt my leg start to burn so I figured that wasn’t a real good sign, but as that went away, that’s why I thought I could keep going but I didn’t feel very good after that. That’s what I stopped playing.”
I asked him what he thought of the James Neal hit: “As far as the hit, I don’t know. Plays like that happen. I don’t know whether it was dirty or not. I thought it was maybe unnecessary, but those happen a lot.”
Did he fear the worst? “Once you get the diagnosis, I wasn’t concerned about the what-ifs. It was more here’s what we’ve got, this is what we’re looking at for recovery and that’s it. Just trying to get healthy as quick as possible and come back to play. I think I was fortunate for what it was as opposed to what it could’ve been, but I didn’t sit and think that this could’ve been a season ending one.”
On the fact the Wild did keep its head above water with him out despite Scandella, Fontaine and Graovac also hurt and tons of guys sick: “We’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of sicknesses. Guys have played really hard and guys have played a lot of minutes. I think they’ve responded really well. They’ve played a tight game and they’ve competed hard. That’s all you can ask for. We’re still right in the hunt for everything. We’ll be fine.
“It’s never fun sitting out and watching the team – you always want to play and travel and be a part of the game as opposed to watching it from up top. But I’ve probably learned from mistakes in the past to listen to the doctors and respect their decisions and follow through with what they say. At the end of the day, I wasn’t going to play unless I felt safe and comfortable and ready to play and now I feel like I’m getting there.”
Jason Zucker: “He’s not a guy you can replace. It’s great to have him back in the lineup and it definitely should be a little boost for us if he’s in. we need to find that from within no matter who’s in the lineup. If Zach’s back, that’s great. If he’s not, we need to find it either way.”
Charlie Coyle has the stall next to Parise. As he was interviewed with Parise next to him, I asked about being on Parise’s line. In the most understated, unenthused way possible, Coyle said, “We’ll see how it goes, good touches out there, good reps, we’ll see.”
Parise chimed in, “Geez, don’t be too excited, Charlie.”
Was pretty funny.
No pregame availability Friday because of the early game, so I'll give you the lineup on Twitter during warmups.
That’s it for me. I have to write for the paper and then get started on my Sunday column.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!! I’m thankful for those of you who always return to the Star Tribune and read my Wild coverage.
Enjoy your day, and if you didn’t read the previous blog, the links for my game story, notebook and postgame blog are there, as well as some crazy data on the Wild’s poor outcomes annually around Thanksgiving.
It was a feel-good, holiday blog, so to speak.