As the games pass and the New Jersey Devils' belief in a miracle grows stronger, injured star left wing Zach Parise is holding out hope that he, too, has some life left in his season.
Parise, who tore the meniscus in his right knee on Oct. 30, is long into his rehab and hoping to get back on the ice early next month. He's watched the Devils' 12-1-2 run and still thinks there's a chance that he'll play in some meaningful games before the 2010-11 season is over.
"The plan the whole time has been to rehab as best I can and as quick as I can and try to get back and play some games," Parise told NHL.com in a phone interview Tuesday night. "All of a sudden we're finding ourselves hopefully crawling back into the playoff scene. I sure hope that when I do come back that they will be meaningful games, and by the way we're playing we've got a chance to do that."
He said "when" he comes back, but Parise later admitted the word "if" fits better in that sentence. He won't know anything until March 2, when he returns to the Cleveland Clinic to see the doctor who performed his surgery on Nov. 2.
Parise is both curious and nervous about what he'll hear that day from Dr. Anthony Miniaci.
"He pretty much told me that if it's not where he wants it to be he'll have to shut me down for the season, and that was tough to hear," Parise said. "But we've been doing a lot of good physical therapy and I'm confident that when I do go see him we'll get the green light. But who knows. I'm not a surgeon."
Parise said his drive to play again this season stems from his desire to play in the NHL. It's his job, he loves it and he misses it.
"For the first little while you accept it. You say, 'I've got a leg brace on so I can't go back in there,' " he said. "But once you start to get a little healthier, you start to get a little more anxious and you really want to speed things up."
Unfortunately the process has been slow and at times very frustrating. Parise said it wasn't until three weeks ago that he was given clearance to bend his knee 90 degrees, which gave him the ability to do exercises like step-ups and squats that got his heart rate up.
"For the longest time I could only strength train down to 30 degrees, and what can you do only down to 30 degrees?" he said. "That was hard because you're so out of shape and you don't have a lot of options to do to get into shape."
Parise couldn't remember the last time he was out of shape.
"That's a hard thing, too, because you can't do the things that you're used to doing," he said. "You do two consecutive exercises in the gym that you always do and you almost have to sit down and catch your breath. It's frustrating. It's frustrating to be in that type of shape. Of course in the summer you're going to take the initial three weeks off so you drop a little bit, but to be where I was and even where I am right now, I've never been here."
He does most of his workouts at Prudential Center, but he's usually in the gym before his teammates arrive and is showering and getting ready to leave by the time they hit the ice for practice. Parise sits in a luxury box at most of the home games, but he doesn't travel and he tries to stay away from his healthy teammates on game days so as not get in the way.
As much as he wants to be involved, he really can't and that's just annoying.
"You're not around your teammates, not around your friends as much as you're used to being," Parise said. "That's another part that is tough about the whole thing."
Still, like his team, Parise is trying to stay optimistic, trying to convince himself that there is still reason to believe.
"I hope that I'll get the chance to play games," he said. "We're definitely progressing and I feel good, I feel really good, but ultimately that's going to be the doctor's decision if he thinks I can. Then it's if I can get back into shape in time, get into game shape, so we'll see."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl