Zach Parise has played hockey for far too long to get ahead of himself. Friday, when the Wild forward participated in practice for the first time since training camp started, he was careful to manage expectations.
Parise remained vague about the injury — reported to be a back issue — that kept him out of full workouts for the first seven days of camp. He also declined to predict whether he would play any preseason games. Still, he felt good after a practice that lasted a little less than an hour at Xcel Energy Center, which seemed satisfying enough under the circumstances.
The goal, Parise said, is to be ready for the season opener Oct. 5 at Detroit. By his definition, that means feeling completely healthy, a goal he still is pursuing.
“It was a good step, I thought,’’ said Parise, who sat out the 2016 playoffs because of a herniated disc that bothered him for much of the season.
“It’s frustrating, but at the same time, there’s still a good chunk of time before the season starts. Right now, it’s about being smart.
“At this time of the season, you want to go in feeling good. You want to go in without nursing something or at 80 percent. You want to not have that stuff be on the top of your mind. Just go in, relax and play. And that’s what I’m shooting toward.’’
During the first week of camp, Parise skated alone or in small groups before or after the team’s practice sessions. He also has been working out in the weight room. Though he said he doesn’t feel 100 percent ready to play, he said he is “getting there.’’
Parise isn’t worried about conditioning. He said he had a great summer of training and skating, making it all the more disappointing that a physical setback cropped up about two weeks before camp started.
Coach Bruce Boudreau, who has promised to be “overcautious’’ with Parise’s health, noted that the forward is always fit and should get into game shape very quickly.
Boudreau thought Parise skated well during Friday’s moderately paced practice, but he also didn’t want to get overexcited.
“We’d like him to play [in a preseason game], but we don’t want him to play until he’s ready,’’ the coach said. “And none of that is my call. That’s the trainer’s call and the doctor’s call. We’ll make sure it’s done right, and when he comes back, he’ll be ready to play.’’
Parise said he “probably’’ would have to monitor the injury throughout the season. “It’s one of those things where you always want to stay ahead of it,’’ he said, “and make sure you’re taking care of your body.’’
Joel Eriksson Ek, who hasn’t played in the first two preseason games, will play the last four beginning Sunday at Colorado.
“I think he’s looking great,’’ Boudreau said of the young forward, who could become the Wild’s third-line center. “He was happy to be here last year. This year, he’s taking it a lot more serious, in the vein that he knows he’s an NHL player, and he’s out to prove it.’’
Forwards Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal, as well as defenseman Ryan Suter and goaltender Devan Dubnyk, are on the preliminary roster for Saturday’s game against Colorado at Xcel.
It will be the first appearance in preseason play for each. The line of Jason Zucker, Koivu and Granlund will be reunited, and Staal will center the top line with Nino Niederreiter and Tyler Ennis.
The Wild made several player moves Friday to reduce the training camp roster to 40. Assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in Iowa were defensemen Gustav Bouramman, Dylan Labbe and Hunter Warner; forwards Adam Gilmour, Pavel Jenys, Chase Lang, Mario Lucia, Gerald Mayhew and Dante Salituro, and goaltender Adam Vey.
Defenseman Zach Palmquist was put on waivers and will be assigned to Iowa on Saturday if he clears.
His other team
Most people know Boudreau as an NHL coach. Friday, he got to wear his other hockey hats, as part-owner of the Minnesota Blue Ox and as dad to Blue Ox goaltender Brady Boudreau.
Boudreau and his wife, Crystal, are among the owners of the Junior A team based in Coon Rapids. The Blue Ox played their home opener Friday at Coon Rapids Ice Center, and Bruce Boudreau was both nervous and excited.
He doesn’t expect to get to many games, but he is thrilled for his family to be part of another Twin Cities hockey organization.
“I’m a really huge fan. That’s my big involvement,’’ Boudreau said.
“Hopefully it’s great, another venture where kids can play hockey and continue to love the game.’’