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Parise Joins Wild In Optional Practice

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

Sustaining an injury and missing a handful of games isn't an ideal situation, especially if you’re Zach Parise.

But if there is any silver lining or positive out of the situation, it may be that the timing of his absenteeism from the lineup coincided with the birth of his twins, Emelia and Jaxson on January 8th.

Rather than scrambling between travel, team obligations and experiencing fatherhood for the first time, Parise has been able to be at home and help his wife, Alisha, with the kids in their first week.

“I have a hard time leaving right now,” Parise said. “It’s been awesome. Really, it’s been the greatest thing ever. I couldn’t be happier.

“It’s ten times better than the way people describe it. Everyone says how it’s the greatest thing in the world. You hear them, but you don’t really hear them until you go through it and see it and have them at home. It’s incredible.”

But the extra time at home may soon diminish for the left-winger as he skated with the team for the first time today. In the Wild’s optional practice, Parise sported a yellow non-contact sweater and was able to really test things out — more so than yesterday when he briefly skated solo prior to morning skate.

With today marking just his second time on the ice since he was placed on Injured Reserve Dec. 28, Parise said there is no real idea of timeline for his return yet, but he also noted that the more he got comfortable skating this morning, the better it felt.

“A couple times I found myself off-balance, kind of favoring the other foot,” Parise said. “But after awhile, when I got comfortable using it, then it felt pretty good, off the quick starts and stuff like that. It felt much better than it did a month ago, or however long ago, when I was playing. That’s a good sign.”

As Parise joined the fold this morning, the Wild ran some drills and scrimmaged, three-on-three, in an optional practice that was minus a handful of players for a day of rest.

“Obviously we’d love to have some practice time but that was a lot of games in a short period of time that we just played with the travel,” Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “We’ve got to make sure that we put some fuel back in the tank. We’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to compete hard tomorrow.”

The Wild is near the end of a stretch of seven games over the course of 12 days; three of those games were on the road, including a back-to-back last weekend that saw the team travel between contests.

Yesterday marked the Wild’s 49th game of the season. Only two other teams in the National Hockey League have played as many games — Chicago and Edmonton — while no teams have played more. No team in the Eastern Conference has played 49 games as of Tuesday.

Today, Yeo likened the current pace to last season’s compressed schedule.

“I don’t know if we’re playing 92 this year or something,” Yeo joked. “It seems like we’ve got these games in hand and yet we just keep playing game after game. Obviously it’s going to catch up here at some point but it does make it a little more challenging when you’re playing a lot of games as far as managing the rest and getting quality practice time in.

“It feels like last year. That’s what its felt like in a lot of ways. But it evens out, so whatever we’ve faced at this point, if the other teams haven’t, they’re going to face it in the second half here or down the stretch.”

Update From The Infirmary

After practice today, Mikko Koivu was briefly seen walking around the underbelly of Xcel Energy Center. Yeo said currently there is no timetable on his return to the lineup, but the turnaround has been amazing.

“I know that he’s motivated to get back,” Yeo said. “It is encouraging.”

Jared Spurgeon, who was also placed on Injured Reserve with a foot injury alongside Koivu and Parise, also has his boot off. Yeo hopes he’ll be back on the ice soon as well.

Josh Harding also practiced once again today. He shared the net with Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper throughout the day’s optional. It was only his second day back with the team.

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