Zach Parise chasing Cup with Avs

WASHINGTON -- Zach Parise’s last ride in the NHL has begun with a long trip.

After signing a one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 26, Parise spent two days in Denver before they departed for a six-game road trip on Feb. 4. The 39-year-old forward spent much of the first four months of the season at home in Minnesota before deciding to return for a 19th NHL season, so he didn’t mind hitting the road right away and having the opportunity to forge relationships with his new teammates and coaches.

“It does help,” Parise said Tuesday. “It’s a great way to get to know everybody and spend time together on the road. So, from that standpoint, being on the road for 12 days to start is good.”

Losing the first four games (0-3-1) wasn’t what Parise envisioned, but Colorado got back on track with a 6-3 win at the Washington Capitals on Tuesday and can end its trip on an upswing with another victory in the finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; BSSUN, ALT).

Parise’s transition has been smooth so far, despite not previously knowing any of the Avalanche players, other than defenseman Jack Johnson from their prep school days at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota. Playing mostly on Colorado’s third line, he has one goal while averaging 12:44 in ice time through his first five games and settled seamlessly back into playing again despite the long layoff.

“It’s been great,” Parise said. “System-wise things are a little different than what I had been playing, but it’s pretty simple to learn. It’s great to be back playing. … Of course, there’s things you get so accustomed to doing routine-wise and you’ve got to hop back into that pretty quickly.”

COL@CAR: Parise scores his first goal as a member of the Avalanche

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he hasn’t noticed any signs of rust and likes what Parise adds to a roster still filled with core members of their 2022 Stanley Cup championship team, including forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, and defensemen Cale Makar and Devon Toews.

“He’s looked pretty good,” Bednar said. “Another guy, just a veteran guy that understands the game, plays the right way for 200 feet. He’s chipped in a little bit offensively. He’s doing a nice job on the defensive side of things. Obviously, took care of himself really well and was prepping to get ready to play, so physically he’s there. That experience, it’s hard to teach that.”

Parise, who has 880 points (430 goals, 450 assists) in 1,229 NHL regular-season games and 80 points (37 goals, 43 assists) in 111 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders and Avalanche, bolsters Colorado’s forward depth after Valeri Nichushkin entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program on Jan. 15, and with captain Gabriel Landeskog still working his way back from knee surgery. That it didn’t cost the Avalanche any players, prospects or picks in the NHL Draft to acquire him added to his value.

“You don't have to give up any assets in getting a player like him, someone that knows what he's doing, someone that's played with so much experience and is just a good hockey player,” Colorado forward Andrew Cogliano said. “He's been good. I think it's going to take him a little bit of time before he can get up to full speed as he probably wants.

“But coming in halfway through the season, he looks pretty good.”

Parise thought he was going to retire after last season, despite getting 34 points (21 goals, 13 assists) in 82 games with the Islanders. Although he trained some, he was content with that decision for a few months.

“Then, towards the end of the summer I got that itch once guys started to ramp their training up to get ready for camp,” Parise said. “In the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘I can still play.’”

Parise started skating again in October, hitting the ice three times a week initially and working his way up to five. Still, he enjoyed spending quality time at home with wife Alisha and their children, 11-year-old twins Jaxson and Emelia, and 6-year-old Theodore.

“I got a good glimpse into what it’s going to be like when it’s over,” Parise said. “I got to coach all my kids’ teams. I got to spend a lot of time with them coaching, helping them, and helping their teams, so it was awesome. It was great being at home.”

Yet, his wife gave him the biggest push to give playing, and chasing the Stanley Cup, another shot.

“Alisha was really encouraging,” Parise said. “She kind of was the one saying, ‘You’ve got some people willing to give you an opportunity to play half a year. You’ve got to do it.’ So, at that point, I was like, ‘All right. Let’s do it one more time.’”

Parise made it clear this will be his final season.

“Yeah, this is it,” he said. “This is it.”

Parise remained in contact with Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello throughout his time away. But Parise saw the Avalanche (33-17-4), who are two points behind the Dallas Stars for first in the Central Division and among the top contenders to win the Cup again this season, as his best chance.

He came close to winning the Cup with Devils when they reached the 2012 Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings, but he hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs since.

“That was a big draw with the amount of guys that have won here and how they’ve been playing all season,” Parise said. “So, that gets you even more excited.”

Parise hopes it can be mutually beneficial for him and the Avalanche. After recharging during his extended offseason, he believes he has plenty left to help Colorado’s quest for its second Cup championship in three seasons.

“I have a lot and I’ll give everything to whatever role, whatever situation they put me in,” he said. “Wherever they throw me, I’ll give it everything I’ve got. That hasn’t changed. But I’m grateful to be given the opportunity.”