Wild's Zach Parise headed to minors for game with Iowa Wild
ST. PAUL — Wild winger Zach Parise hurriedly packed his bags following Wednesday's morning skate before embarking on the 3½-hour drive to join the minor-league Iowa Wild.
"I've been sent down," Parise said with a smile.
Parise is scheduled to play in Thursday, Dec. 28's American Hockey League game against the Rockford IceHogs with plans to return to the Twin Cities after the game.
"I'll see how it feels after that," Parise said. "That's as far as we've looked ahead right now."
Parise hasn't played at all this season after having back surgery on Oct. 24. He has been on an arduous road to recovery since then, and this rehab assignment figures to be one of the final steps before he makes his highly anticipated season debut.
"It's helped a lot of people in the past," coach Bruce Boudreau said, adding that he hoped to have Parise back in the lineup shortly after New Year's Day.
After practicing with the team the past couple of weeks, Parise recently was cleared for full contact. That, coupled with the fact that he hasn't been able to build any sort of chemistry during practices, made the decision to go to the minors fairly easy.
"These guys have to get ready to play games, and when I'm not on a line, it's tough to get reps," Parise said. "So, I think this would probably be the best thing, to go there, practice with them, play a game, and go from there."
Parise said this will serve as a good barometer to see how his body responds to live action. It has been 250 days since he last played in an actual game.
"You always want to make sure that everything goes well," Parise said. "It's been a long time and these guys have been playing 30 to 35 games so they're that much further (along) than me conditioning-wise. I've got to get in game shape and try knock some of that rust off."
Parise talked to a lot of people before making his final decision, weighing the pros and cons that come with the rehab assignment. He said a conversation with a good friend that was in a similar situation during his career was the final push he needed.
"He said in hindsight that he wished he had gone down and played some games and gotten in shape and then stepped in," Parise said. "It takes awhile to catch back up to the conditioning level, the endurance level that these guys are at. It doesn't happen overnight. ... You have to get in those games and get those reps in. It just made the most sense that this would be a good starting point."
Parise was quick to add that he won't be hopping on the bus after the game in Des Moines with the Iowa Wild scheduled for a home-and-home series with the Rockford IceHogs.
"I'm not doing the back-to-back," Parise said with a laugh. "We didn't know how good of an idea that would be to play and then hop on a bus for five hours and play the next night."
Nino Niederreiter will not play in Wednesday's home game against the Dallas Stars. He suffered a lower-body injury before the three-day holiday break.
"He's not going tonight," Boudreau said after the afternoon skate. "I'm hoping that he's practicing tomorrow."
Devan Dubnyk will serve as the backup to goalie Alex Stalock and is expected to play this weekend with a back-to-back series against the Nashville Predators on Friday and Saturday.
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