When forward Zach Parise signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild on July 4, 2012, fans thought the Wild were destined for championships.
That's going to happen this season when the Wild bring the Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey.
While Parise and the Wild have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for five consecutive seasons, they have yet to get past the second round. But this year will be a different story, especially if all their talented pieces, namely Parise, are going at 100 percent.
"When he's on top of this game he's like a dog on a bone. He doesn't let it go," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He creates energy for the team and anything at the front of the net he's capable of putting it in and that adds a big dimension [to this team].
"When he's on the ice I know other teams are a little leery of him and trying to put checkers against him. That's the kind of player he is -- one that gets other teams nervous."
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Parise missed the 2016 playoffs because of a herniated disk, and the Wild lost to the Dallas Stars in six games in the Western Conference First Round.
He's ready to go this season, and when Parise's in the lineup his tenacity adds to the depth of an already dangerous Wild team.
"I think he's just an effective guy in and around the net," linemate Eric Staal said. "He's got the skill to finish and the fight to win puck battles in front of the net and in the corners. And when the hockey gets tight, that's when guys are effective. When he's tenacious and on the puck he's doing a lot of good things and he's definitely going to be the difference maker for us moving forward."
While the Wild have excelled this season, matching franchise-bests with 49 wins and 106 points, not to mention a Wild-record 12-game winning streak, Parise, 32, thinks his play could have been better.
He's missed 13 games because of upper- and lower-body injuries and the mumps, and had 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists) in 69 games.
"It's been one of those things where sometimes you just shake your head and look forward to the next time that you're able to come and skate and honestly just work on your game as much as you can," Parise's said. "There's things that have been out of my control and that's the way it goes. I've been pretty fortunate, except the last couple years, to be pretty healthy the majority of the season. It's just been a tough go."
Parise said he's looking forward to contributing to what should be a long postseason run.
"The team has done great," he said. "We put ourselves in a good spot and we hope to carry that in the postseason. For me, personally, I love playing in the playoffs. It just brings out a new level in everybody, the players, the fans. I think we're all looking forward to it."