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Rink Report: Parise Aims for Saturday Return

After sustaining frightening eye injury Tuesday, winger could be in the lineup versus the Predators

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- When Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise took a stick up high during the first period on Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, it was hard to keep the worst-case scenarios at bay.

After the blade of Tom Wilson's stick got under Parise's visor, knocking him to the ice and careening off Jay Beagle's leg in the process, Parise was laid on the ice writhing in pain. It was a sight rarely seen: one of the franchise's toughest players, unable to get to his feet without the assistant of a trainer.

The area around Parise's right eye quickly became swollen to the point where he couldn't see out of it. 

All of the sudden, there is a whole bunch of unknown.

"It's scary when you open your eye for the first time and you're just praying that nothing happened, or it's nothing too serious," Parise said.

Video: Wild Prepares to Face Nashville

It also made for an interesting discussion at home with his wife and two children, who saw their dad go to work a few hours earlier looking normal, only to come home later that night appearing anything but.

"Kids were a little scared. They didn't really know what was going on, they didn't understand why I couldn't open my eye," Parise said. "It's the same thing when you've got family members and friends watching and they see you on the ice, no matter what, it can be a scary thing. Fortunately, it turned out not to be anything too bad."

The next day, Parise was able to open his eye, gaining the relief of full vision in his eye. By Thursday, he was back on the ice skating during the team's morning skate.

After a brisk skate on Friday at Xcel Energy Center, Parise will accompany the team to Nashville and could be in the lineup when Minnesota plays the Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday afternoon.

"I feel like I can play," Parise said. "I guess I'm planning on playing."

In addition to the eye injury, Parise also sustained an upper-body injury in the ensuing collision. While the eye benefitted from an extra day of rest -- it was still black and a bit swollen on Friday -- it was more the upper-body ailment that prevented him from playing against the Senators. 

Parise, not surprisingly, would have liked to have played on Thursday. Fortunately, the team did him a solid, scoring a 5-1 win to keep its momentum alive with the regular season entering its final week.

"Hopefully he feels good enough to play [on Saturday]," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "If he does, then he will."

Special teams improves

After allowing three power-play goals while also going 0-for-5 on its own power play against the Capitals on Tuesday night, the Wild spent a bulk of Wednesday's practice working on its special teams. 

It saw an immediate pay off Thursday versus Ottawa, scoring once with the man advantage while officially holding the Senators off the board on all four of their power plays.

While Mike Hoffman's goal in the first period came as a power play expired, Boudreau said he was pleased with all but the final three seconds of that kill. After that, Minnesota yielded few, if any, quality chances on its final three kills.

"We didn't take the right guy (on Hoffman's goal). We did a good job on that [until then] and we did a good job on the rest of them too," Boudreau said. "I'm always, at this stage ... you gotta do it again and again. They didn't have their best, maybe the League's best, power-play guy there and I think that threw them for a loop a little bit."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Talks Penalty Kill, Parise, Predators

Minnesota's power-play goal, a blast from the left point by Matt Dumba, punctuated its second and final man advantage of the night, but highlighted the depth the Wild has among its units.

The goal was Dumba's 11th of the season, which established a new career high. Six of those goals have come on the power play. He also has four goals over his past 10 games.

Scouting the Predators

Hot on the heels of the Wild as recently as Tuesday, the Nashville Predators have lost their past two games, gaining just a single point in the process. The Wild has taken three of four points in that same span to push its lead over Nashville back to nine games in the Central Division. The Predators must also climb over the red-hot St. Louis Blues if they hope to make a run for home-ice position in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blues and Preds play on Sunday in St. Louis in a game that could go a long ways toward deciding Minnesota's first-round opponent.

Nashville's potent line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson has been powering the Predators over the past month. Johansen leads the team with 59 points, including 46 assists, while Forsberg recently reached the 30-goal plateau for a second consecutive season. Arvidsson is right behind him, having buried 29 goals in a breakout campaign this season.

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