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Parise's return expected Saturday

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Parise targeting Saturday's game vs. Montreal.

It’s official: Zach Parise has targeted Saturday for his return to the lineup.

Parise, who will miss his 64th game tonight when the Devils host the Islanders, made the decision after yesterday’s practice. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in November and has not played since Oct. 30.

“Not quite [ready],” Parise said after taking part in the morning skate. “It wasn’t quite ready to go tonight, so we decided just to wait a few more days.”

Parise has been a part of three full team practices, and will see at least one more before returning to game action. He ruled out Friday’s home meeting with Philadelphia to avoid playing on back-to-back nights.

“I think right now we’re looking we’re looking at Saturday against Montreal,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at and hoping for, assuming everything goes well and keeps progressing. It’s just a little too early for tonight.”

The four-time 30-goal scorer noted that he’s felt an improvement with each practice, but still has to work on his timing. He plans on practicing Thursday, then joining the team for Friday’s morning skate.

“My knee doesn’t hurt,” he said. “I feel like that is all healed, but I want to try and get as sharp as I can before hopping into a game. I think that’s why we decided tonight wasn’t a good night.”

When Parise traveled with the team for last weekend’s road trip, it began to look like tonight would be the night. So it came as something of a disappointment to have to push it back three more days.

“In a way it is, but I just knew in my mind that it wouldn’t be a good idea,” he said. “You do kind of get the game feeling and the game atmosphere coming in the side and watching all these guys getting ready to play, but I just don’t think it would’ve been a good idea.”

Jacques Lemaire recounted the conversation he had with his left wing.

“‘Not yet,’” Lemaire said. “‘Is it coming?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Perfect.’”

What does Parise have to feel?

“Good,” said Lemaire. “He’s got to feel comfortable. He’s got to feel that he can play. He’s got to feel good in practice, like he’s confident. He’s got to feel confidence.”

The Devils’ long-shot playoff hopes were aided yesterday by Buffalo’s loss to Toronto. They still trail the eighth-place Sabres by 12 points with seven games to go and a game in hand. Any combination of Buffalo wins or New Jersey losses totaling three points would eliminate the Devils from playoff contention.

Under different circumstances, might Parise have pushed it?

“It’s hard to say,” Parise said. “At the end of the day, if we were going to the playoffs I definitely would’ve been trying, not that I’m not trying right now to get back. But the biggest concern is the health, and especially if we were going to the playoffs, you would want to play even more. I think health-wise, it would be along the same timeline regardless of where we were at.”

But should the Devils’ playoff bid come up short, Parise still has a personal list of to-dos before the end of the regular season.

“Just to feel good about my game, feel good about playing,” he said. “I know I’m not going to feel great; there’s only going to be four or five games left, so it’s going to be tough to get everything in line then. Just I guess for your own peace of mind, just to play going into the summer.”
Martin Brodeur will make his 15th straight start tonight.
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