ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Zach Parise's first season with his hometown Minnesota Wild was far from a disappointment. Parise was the team leader in goals and points, led the team to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and greatly helped fill an arena which had started to grow somewhat stale in recent years.
All that said, Parise believes there is more to accomplish in year two, which kicks off Thursday night (8:00pm, NBCSN) at Xcel Energy Center against the Los Angeles Kings.
Parise said his game last year was too "conservative," and that he expects an increase in his production across the board.
Zach Parise looks to build on his strong first season with the Wild. (Photo: Minnesota Wild)
"Getting last season over with and getting more comfortable with the players and the surroundings," Parise said. "There's a lot of things that go into it."
Parise played in all 48 games last season, scoring 18 goals and adding 20 assists -- numbers which would translate to more than 30 goals and about 70 points in a full 82-game campaign. Not a bad season by any measure.
"I'm better with the puck than I was last year," Parise said. "Sometimes, in a lot of games, I just felt antsy. I don't know if it was nerves or what, but I just know I'm better with the puck. That's not to make an excuse, but internally I just know."
Having a full training camp, as well as a day he could circle on the calendar as a start date for the season certainly helps, too. After signing a 13-year, $98 million contract on July 4th two summers ago, the uncertainty of the lockout cast a shadow on when, or even if, the 2012-13 season would start.
After a new collective bargaining agreement was hammered out, players had about a week to arrive, install systems and get started. It made an already difficult adjustment even more so for Parise, who refuses to acknowledge that as an excuse.
This season also brings with it realignment, which figures to benefit the Wild as much as anyone. After spending more time traveling than any other team in the National Hockey League last season, the Wild will play a vast majority of its games in the Central time zone with 7 p.m. local starts.
That means getting home earlier and fewer cancelled practices, something Wild coach Mike Yeo was forced to do too often a year ago to try and rest a weary team.
Having a year of experience in Yeo's system also figures to help Parise, who said things in that area started to click more as the season wore on last spring.
"We will have a lot more time to work on things, whether it's the power play, the penalty kill, things like that," Parise said. "I know we will benefit from having more time to work on things."