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Wild's Parise practices, could return against Jets

by Dan Myers / NHL.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise returned to practice Thursday for the first time since injuring his right knee Nov. 5 and could be back in the lineup as soon as Friday against the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center.

"I don't know yet, we'll see how it responds," Parise said. "But I felt good and I felt comfortable doing everything."

Parise was injured in a collision with Nashville Predators forward James Neal. He was diagnosed with a sprained MCL in his right knee two days later and was originally expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Parise has been skating since Nov. 16 and joined teammates for morning skates prior to each of the past two games but had not taken part in contact drills until Thursday.

Parise, who has a history of quick returns from injury, said he didn't want to rush back too soon and risk something more long term.

"I've probably learned from mistakes in the past, to listen to the doctors and respect their decisions and follow through on what they have to say," Parise said. "At the end of the day, I wasn't going to play unless I felt safe and comfortable and ready to play. Now, I feel like I'm getting there."

Wild coach Mike Yeo said Parise will speak to doctors later Thursday and see how his knee reacts to practice before making a final decision on whether to play Friday. Parise has been medically cleared to play.

"We have a plan if he plays and we have a plan if he doesn't play," Yeo said. "We don't know which one we're going with."

If Parise does play, he is expected to help lengthen a Wild lineup that has been ravaged by injury and illness over the past several weeks. If not, Jordan Schroeder, who missed the game Wednesday because of illness, likely will return to the lineup.

"If he is ready to play, we could probably find a place for him in our lineup," Yeo said of Parise. "Adding one player gives you so many more options. We'll see."

Forward Justin Fontaine, who has been out since Oct. 30 with a sprained knee, won't play against the Jets but could return when the Wild host the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

"It gets us a little closer to having the other team pick their poison and who they want to match up against," Yeo said. "We think that when we're healthy, we have a pretty deep group up front with a number of guys who are capable of contributing offensively."

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