ST. PAUL -- When Wild players take the ice Thursday night in Detroit, Zach Parise will not be among them.
Though head coach Bruce Boudreau recently said he expected Parise to practice with the team once training camp finished, that was not the case Monday as the regular-season roster nears completion.
Parise, who sustained an undisclosed injury a few weeks before training camp, has only skated with his teammates a couple times since. They did well in the preseason without him, posting a record of 5-2, but when the regular season begins in Detroit on Thursday, Parise will be back in Minnesota skating on his own, aiming to continue the recovery of his strength and full range of motion.
"After speaking with the doctors on the weekend we're just gonna slow him down a little bit, pull back a bit," Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "I think the plan would be, all going well, he'd rejoin the team next Monday when we get back from the first road trip."
Parise played in 69 games last season, battling a couple of minor ailments as well as three different bouts with strep throat.
"I think it's smart to give him the time he needs to get closer to 100 percent and feel better. He's in great shape, he's been skating, and again he feels great, but we just gotta make sure we do the right thing here. It's a long season," Fletcher said. "He's made progress, but it doesn't make sense to start him at 80 percent."
Given his value to the Wild, Parise's long-term health is a main focus moving forward. The best-case scenario is that Parise can return to practice in a week.
"It doesn't make sense to have him play Thursday and rush into this. If this is Game 7 of the playoffs he could play and could battle through it, but it's a long season so we're gonna give him the time and space he needs to feel better."
Taking things slow will inevitably require the team to fill the gap left in the lineup rather quickly.
In the short term, the Wild must find a 12th forward to ice against the Red Wings and Hurricanes. Daniel Winnik, in camp on a professional tryout, could be an option. Fletcher said he's also considering a couple of other players currently on waivers from other teams.
Both Fletcher and Boudreau emphasized that they prefer younger players like Luke Kunin to develop and get more ice time in Iowa than to play fewer minutes in Minnesota.
Video: Chuck Fletcher Update on Zach Parise
Decision on defense
The domino effect of whatever happens with Parise could extend all the way to the Wild's blue line, where Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson have been entrenched in a battle for a spot on the team's third defensive pairing.
With Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba along with Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon locked into the top four defensive spots, and veteran Kyle Quincey seemingly pencilled in on the right side of the third pairing, the position next to Quincey has been up to grabs.
Reilly has had a strong training camp and preseason, even outplaying Olofsson, according to Boudreau.
"Whether it was [Olofsson] trying to be a little too safe, or trying to be perfect, Mike was noticed more," Boudreau said. "There's improvement to be had in there. But if you take this year, last year at this time, I think both of them have improved greatly."
Both players are on one-way contracts signed over the summer, but Olofsson would require a trip through waivers in order to get to Iowa of the American Hockey League. Reilly -- at least early in the year -- would not.
Fletcher said on Monday that the team has the money to add a forward, but if the club decides it needs some extra cash to shore up its group, how to make the dollars and cents could figure into who suits up on Minnesota's blue line this weekend.
With the Opening Night roster due to the NHL tomorrow at 4 p.m. CT, the Wild got closer to its number on Monday, assigning Kunin to Iowa and placing defenseman Ryan Murphy on waivers. If Murphy clears, he will be assigned to Iowa on Tuesday.
Minnesota's current roster stands at 22 players, one under the League maximum.
Fletcher said Monday he was impressed by the camp Kunin had, but preferred he play in the AHL to start the season in order to get ice time.
"He is 19 years old and right now he doesn't fit in our top-9. He's a real important part of our future. I think he showed a lot of different attributes during training camp," Fletcher said. "He showed his competitiveness, his speed, his ability to forecheck, he's got a great shot. He can play first line in Iowa, play power play, play penalty kill, get 20 minutes a night and build up his confidence at the pro level, score goals and produce points. And when we do need him we'll get a guy that's ready to step in versus a guy that right now might be more of an 8-10 minute guy."