ST. PAUL -- Zach Parise appears set to don the Wild uniform on Thursday.
It'll be an Iowa Wild uniform, but it's a big step in the right direction nonetheless as Parise aims to see his first game action of any kind during the 2017-18 season. Minnesota is expected to assign Parise to Iowa on Thursday for a conditioning stint, the length of which is unknown at this point.
"[I am] really excited. [I've] been able to do a tiny bit of bumping down there, been cleared for contact and everything but ... even on that eight-day trip we practiced one time," Parise said. "These guys have to get ready to play games and when you're not on a line, it's tough to get reps so I think this would probably be the best thing to move forward to go there, practice with them, play a game, and go from there."
Iowa will play the front half of back-to-back, home-and-home games against the Rockford Ice Hogs on Thursday, where Parise is expected to play. Iowa coach Derek Lalonde told Wild.com via text message that he's excited to have Parise, who hasn't played in the American Hockey League since he skated in 73 games with the Albany Devils during the NHL lockout in 2004-05.
Video: Zach Parise is cleared for contact
Fans interested in streaming the contest can purchase a one-game subscription to AHL Live for $7.99 or listen live on KXNO via iHeart Radio.
After the game on Thursday, Parise is expected to return to the Twin Cities and potentially join the club for its morning skate Friday ahead of Minnesota's game against the Nashville Predators.
While Parise has been skating for the past few weeks, slowly ramping up his on-ice workload, getting into a game and gauging how his back reacts to contact is one of the final big hurdles remaining in his recovery from the microdiscectomy surgery he had back in October.
Parise admitted it's as much mental as it is physical.
"You always have in the back of your mind that you just wanna go," Parise said. "I don't think anything's gonna go wrong but you always want to make sure that everything goes well and again, it's been a long time and these guys have been playing 30-35 games so they're that much further than me conditioning-wise so I've gotta get in game shape and try to knock some of that rust off and it'll be a good place to do it down there."
Iowa returns home on New Year's Day for a game against the Chicago Wolves, where Parise could play a second game on his rehab stint. After that, Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said Parise could return to the Minnesota lineup "early in the new year."
All of this is given things go smoothly over the next week or so.
"All I know is that again I plan on hopefully playing a game tomorrow and then coming back and kind of go from there," Parise said. "In all honesty, that's kind of the furthest that we've talked about. That's where we're at, just worry about tomorrow and work from there."