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Parise forced to deal with time off after surgery

by Dan Rosen
Devils left wing Zach Parise needs help from his girlfriend to do just about everything that normally comes so easily to him.

"I'm never comfortable," Parise, who had surgery Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, told Wednesday night. "Just right now, even sitting down, it hurts. Walking is tough. Nothing is comfortable and that makes it really frustrating. I feel bad for my girlfriend, she's taking care of me and I'm sitting around, kind of useless."

Parise had been injury-free dating back as far as he can remember. Tuesday's surgery, an exploratory procedure he had in Cleveland that turned into a repair when the torn meniscus was found, was the first time he's gone under the knife. The two games he's already missed equal the amount of games he missed during the previous four seasons.

When he sits out Friday's game against the Rangers, it'll match the amount of games he missed in the first five seasons of his career. Parise will be out at least three months as he rehabs his knee.

He's knocked on wood and crossed his fingers as much as anybody, but finally he got bit by the injury bug that is plaguing the New Jersey Devils. It nearly continued Wednesday in Chicago, where goalie Martin Brodeur had to leave the game 5:48 into the second period with a bruised elbow. X-rays were negative, but he didn't return to the game.

Brodeur said he thinks he should be healthy to play Friday against the Rangers.

The difference between the lengthy injuries to Anton Volchenkov (broken nose, stiff neck), Brian Rolston (sports hernia surgery), Bryce Salvador (concussion), Mark Fraser (fractured hand), Matthew Corrente (fractured hand) and Jacob Josefson (hand surgery) -- got all that? -- is that Parise had a feeling his time and subsequent surgery were just around the corner.

He hurt his knee while skating this summer and the pain got progressively worse, enough that he had to pull himself out of the Devils' game in Los Angeles last Saturday. He took a red-eye flight home with GM Lou Lamoriello, consulted with doctors, had an MRI, talked with family members and decided on exploratory surgery during which the torn meniscus was discovered.

The timetable for recovery was not a surprise to Parise. He knew his odds weren't good before he went in for surgery.

"Right away your stomach kind of drops because I've been pretty fortunate that I've never been injured and then something like this happens," Parise said. "It had gotten to the point where it was so uncomfortable playing that I knew something was wrong and I needed to get it fixed.

"I felt unstable," he added. "I felt like I got knocked down and knocked off the puck way too easily and I would always twist it. When you're not confident going into the corner with somebody that's when you know something is definitely wrong. It's just something I needed to get fixed and everything will be fine."

But will it?

The Devils banked a pair of empty-net goals and survived for a 5-3 win in Chicago on Wednesday, but it was only their fourth victory in a season that has quickly unraveled due to injuries and lack of production from key guys, including Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac.

However, Parise insists he's not worried that because of his team's abysmal start the Devils will be out of the playoff race by the time he's due to return -- perhaps right after the All-Star break.

"We've already got a lot of injuries, we're not playing that great, but I'm confident the guys will be fine and still pull out of this funk that we're in without me," he said. "I am confident that we'll get things straightened out, get things figured out."

They haven't so far -- the Devils who even after Wednesday's win have a League-worst minus-20 goal differential -- and that's led to speculation that rookie coach John MacLean is on the hot seat.

Parise defended MacLean, saying you can't point a finger solely at the coach. Asked if there is a rift between the players and MacLean, who benched Ilya Kovalchuk for a Saturday night game at Prudential Center against Buffalo last month, Parise quickly and emphatically replied, "No, not at all. Everyone gets along great with Mac."

"I can't sit here and say it's Mac's fault, because it's not," Parise added. "You've got to look at the players and we haven't been getting the job done. But, like I said, I'm confident those guys will get everything straightened out and will get on a winning track here."
"Just right now, even sitting down, it hurts. Walking is tough. Nothing is comfortable and that makes it really frustrating. I feel bad for my girlfriend, she's taking care of me and I'm sitting around, kind of useless. " -- Zach Parise

Parise wants to be as much a part of it as he can, or as his physical therapy and rehab will allow.

He plans on being around the team because he doesn't really know anything else. But that might have to wait a little while: For the next six weeks Parise has to wear a brace on his knee and use crutches to get around. The doctors don't want his knee to bend at all from him putting any pressure on it.

"Hopefully I'm going to get pretty used to using these crutches," Parise said.

He obviously can't drive, so his girlfriend will "have to be a chauffeur, too." He has a few teammates who live near him and can give him a lift to the arena when he wants to go.

He also lives right near a train station that's only a few minutes from Prudential Center, but once at Newark Penn Station there is still about a half-mile walk to the arena.

"That would be a pain in the butt," Parise said. "I was getting exhausted walking to the grocery store today and it's about a hundred feet away from my house."

The painkillers he's on now relieve some of the pain, but when he's feeling good again three months from now you have to wonder what kind of state his team will be in.

Confidence only goes so far when you're watching from the press box, and Parise is not used to that.

"You can speculate all you want, but I think everyone is confident that we'll turn this around, start putting some pucks in the net and winning some games," Parise said. "They'll be fine. We've got a good team and they'll be all right."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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