NEWARK, N.J. -- Could Zach Parise be playing his final game for the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday when his club hosts the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Prudential Center?
Parise will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the odds that he tests the open market at this point look pretty good. Still, the 27-year-old captain, who has never advanced beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six previous seasons, has preferred not to discuss his future in the hours leading up to the most important game of the season.
"You never want your season to end earlier than it's supposed to," Parise told reporters after Tuesday's optional skate at Prudential Center. "That thought hasn't crossed my mind, but there's a lot of things that are motivating factors at this stage.
"We can't go out there and play scared or play with fear," he continued. "That'll get us nowhere. We have to rely on one another … that everyone is going to do their job and do what they're supposed to do. If we do that, we'll be fine."
Parise was asked if he would provide any motivating speech prior to the opening faceoff since he'll be dealing with his first elimination game as captain of the club.
"That's none of your business," he said, smiling. "I'm sure everyone will have their two cents and their opinion and we'll all make sure that our linemates and teammates are ready to play and we have plenty of guys capable of doing that."
At this stage, Parise admits the team really has no choice but to embrace and deal with the situation.
"We have to enjoy playing in front of our own fans and on our own rink," he said. "It'll be exciting, and when we do embrace it, we'll be able to play more relaxed. You lose, and the season is over. There will be a lot of emphasis on systems, and on our compete level, which has to be better than the last game."
Parise has two goals, three points and a minus-1 rating in five playoff games. For his career, he has 15 goals and 31 points in 42 contests.
"You want a good start ... when you get a good start you get the crowd into it and players run on adrenaline and have that extra energy," Parise said. "When I talk about compete level, I'm referring to us getting knocked off the puck too easily and not competing for the puck. We have to be able to come out of scrums for pucks, and we didn't do that well enough last game."
Parise was one of only five Devils to appear in all 82 regular-season games this season. He finished second on the team with 31 goals and was third in assists (38) and points (69). He became only the second player in team history to score 30 goals five times.
Despite having played in over 40 career playoff games, Parise said he'll probably feel a tad nervous at the outset.
"I probably will be nervous … I was for Games 1 and 2," Parise said. "Once you get used to everything, you're a lot better. There's a lot on the line and I'm sure a lot of guys will be nervous and that's OK. But we'll be ready to play."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale