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Parise returns to ice for first time since surgery

Wild forward had microdiscectomy operation to relieve pain and numbness Oct. 24

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

MENDOTA HEIGHTS -- When Zach Parise had to lay down in order to eat dinner, the Wild forward knew something had to be done. 

For one of the NHL's grittiest players, one who prides himself on making the extra-effort plays that make a difference in the game, simple tasks like household chores were not just difficult to complete -- they had become impossible to even begin. 

After agonizing for weeks over whether to get a surgical procedure to eliminate pain in his leg, Parise finally had enough.

"[To] not really be able to sit down at all during the day because it was so painful or having to lay down at your house for a majority of the day," Parise said. "That's when you kind of swallow your pride a little bit and just be like, 'Alright, there's something seriously wrong.' I think that's when I kind of recognized that I needed to go down the surgery path."

On Oct. 24, he went to TRIA in Bloomington and underwent a non-invasive microdiscectomy that almost immediately relieved the pain, numbness and discomfort he had been feeling for several weeks.

Over the past month, Parise has kept a low profile, but has been around the arena and his teammates in the locker room.

On Wednesday, Parise took his first official steps in his quest to return to game action as he hit the ice with skating coach Diane Ness for 45 minutes before the Wild's practice at St. Thomas Ice Arena.

A few minutes after he was done, all reports were good from No. 11.

"You never know how it's going to be the first time on the ice for a little while. But it was almost as if everything kind of came back there at the end of the skate. Everything felt pretty smooth and most importantly, nothing hurt. So it was a really good day, a really good sign, and kind of keep progressing, get a little more advanced tomorrow and the following day and go from there."

While no return date has been targeted -- for practice, much less game action -- Wednesday's development was a very good one for Parise, who in the days before having surgery could barely walk, much less think of skating or playing anytime soon.

"Right when I woke up, the pain was gone. It was fantastic," Parise said. "That itself was a great feeling and leaving there, being able to sit in the car on the way home even, was great. From then on, I've never really had any of the nerve pain, so it was a good sign that it was fixed and ready to go."

Parise said it's been incredibly difficult to sit on the sidelines over the first couple months of the season, especially as other players in the lineup -- Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter among them -- have had to deal with their own injury issues. 

"It's always tough to watch your own team play and then to have some of the major stuff that we've had ... it takes a major toll on the team, the players," Parise said. "But it's good that Charlie is back [now], the players are getting back healthy and hopefully in the right direction, getting guys feeling good on the ice.

"Hopefully everything kind of falls back into place for us."

The skating session with Ness on Wednesday was largely getting back to basics. He was seen skating slow laps around the sheet, taking long strides, doing figure eights as well as some light edge work. 

The final five minutes, Parise was able to play with the puck a bit, and it didn't take long for the hockey skills to quickly return. 

Video: Zach Parise First Skate

Parise is expected to slowly increase his workload in the coming days and weeks as he attempts to strengthen his back and legs and get himself back into hockey shape. 

One thing Parise is confident in is his ability to resume his puck-hounding ways, which has been a staple of his game his entire career. He said he has no concerns whatsoever about having to change the way he plays the game.

"I think the important thing right now is to take my time with the recovery. You don't want to hop back in there out of shape or fully strong where I need to be," Parise said. "But I'm very confident that everything is going to get back to normal and even better than it was.

"Just the lone fact of not having to fight through that thing anymore, it's going to be even better."

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