TORONTO - A full summer of rehab, recovery, and on-ice activities had forward Zach Parise confident a serious back injury was behind him.
Two intense pretournament games against Canada prior to the World Cup of Hockey also helped clear any lingering doubts that may have remained.
"It was nice to get a little contact in, and come out of the game feeling fine, mentally, just to get past that," Parise said. "Hopefully it will be an advantage for us to play in this."
Parise missed the final game of the regular season with a back injury he had been dealing with for months, but flared up and became too much to skate through.
He missed the entire 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but avoided offseason surgery through rehab and other treatments.
Now physically and mentally back to his old self, Parise is eager to be entering the 2016-17 season with a clean bill of health, beginning Saturday against Team Europe in the United States' opening World Cup game (2:30 p.m. CT; ESPN2).
"Hopping into those first two games that we played against Canada, going from skating at Braemar to that is crazy," Parise said. "Hopefully this tournament -- I assume playing in this tournament -- will have us a step ahead before the regular season."
Parise was taking shifts on a line with Joe Paevlski at center and fellow Minnesotan Blake Wheeler to his right during practice on Friday. Defenseman Ryan Suter was paired with John Carlson for the majority of his drills.
"[Wheeler] brings a lot of speed and is hard on pucks," Pavelski said. "That right there, it allows us to get a lot of pucks back if we have to go forecheck. Zach is just tenacious. Everyone knows he's going to keep going through anything."
Both Wild skaters also appear to be getting special teams time, with Parise up front on the United States' top power play along with T.J. Oshie, Patrick Kane, Pavelski, and Carlson. Suter was on the second power-play unit with James van Riemsdyk on the opposite point, and Ryan Kesler, Max Pacioretty, and Derek Stepan up front.
"For any power play they kind of give you that general guideline of a formation, and then you're kind of going from there," van Riemsdyk said. "Different things open up, and different players see things a little bit differently, and try plays a little bit differently, so it's just getting those repetitions, and working on it from there.
"During the year when your power play starts clicking it's when guys aren't really thinking as much, and just playing -- reading and reacting."
Of course, there's always the chance the United States throws a curveball on Saturday when it opens round robin play against Team Europe.
"I know exactly what the lineup is but I'm not going to give it to you until tomorrow," U.S. head coach John Tortorella said. "We had them slotted before the tournament, before we even started practicing, and tried to play the guys that way and let them play themselves in or play out, especially in the goaltending position."