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After 'Major Letdown' of a Season, Parise Looks Ahead

Forward hopes to bounce back after injury, illness marred 2016-17 campaign

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Last summer was a tough one for Wild forward Zach Parise.

After a back injury sustained late in the 2015-16 regular season forced him to miss Minnesota's playoff series against the Dallas Stars -- one the Wild lost in six games -- he was forced to spend the ensuing months rehabbing the injury as opposed to preparing for a new season.

While the World Cup of Hockey gave Parise something to shoot for in terms of being back on the ice, it meant missing out on many of the normal things that make a Minnesota summer so special to him.

Parise was unable to participate in many of the charity events like Sunday's Wiffle Wars wiffle ball tournament at CHS Field. He only played a handful of Da Beauty League games.

"That was tough, not being able to train the way I would have liked to," Parise said. "I was more doing rehab. But at the end of the day ... last year, I just didn't play well. What do you do?"

For Parise, one of the most passionate hockey players one would ever meet, it means going about a summer routine that will have him primed to bounce back in 2017-18.

While several teammates had career seasons during coach Bruce Boudreau's first season as coach, Parise had a rare down year. His 19 goals were the fewest he's had in a full season since his rookie year in 2005-06. His 42 points were also the fewest since he had 32 points in 81 games that same year with the New Jersey Devils.

Much of that can be attributed to the various nagging injuries that kept Parise from getting into a groove last season.

After notching his 300th NHL goal early in the campaign, and scoring six points in the Wild's first seven games, he missed six games with a lower-body injury. Shortly after returning, his first bout with strep throat knocked him from the lineup, then haunted him for much of the rest of the first half, limiting his energy and ability to play at his peak. A lengthy goal drought, a mumps diagnosis and another round of strep wreaked havoc on his second half.

All in all, it was a year to forget, he said.

"For me, last year stunk," said Parise, who turned 33 on July 28. "I didn't play that well. I've been working on my game, hoping to put myself in a spot to not let that happen again."

Parise has remained off the radar so far this summer, instead getting back to his normal training routine and enjoying time with his wife and kids at the lake. 

Still, last season, and more specifically, how last season ended -- another disappointing first-round exit, this time at the hands of the St. Louis Blues -- has Parise motivated and excited for training camp, which begins in a little over a month.

"I think we all should be looking forward to coming back and playing again," Parise said. "I think it was a major letdown what happened in the playoffs. I think everyone should be coming back excited to start the season and give ourselves another chance."

That means incorporating a handful of new players, including forwards Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis, who were acquired in a trade with Buffalo in June in exchange for forward Jason Pominville and defenseman Marco Scandella.

"It'll be a different look," Parise said. "We lost some good players, some important players to our team. But we're bringing in some good players. We'll see how it goes, but I like the guys that we brought in."

Feeling good and in a good place physically for the first time since the end of last summer, Parise expects to crank up his skating and training over the next six weeks, putting himself in position to have a rebound season and the team to build on its historic 2016-17 regular season.

"Until we get our team together, I'm going to prepare the best I can to make sure we have a great year."

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