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Parise may miss games on road trip

ST. PAUL -- A Wild team already struggling to win the road might be without his best goal-scorer and emotional leader for its longest trip of the season...

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ST. PAUL - A Wild team already struggling to win the road might be without his best goal-scorer and emotional leader for its longest trip of the season

Zach Parise will accompany the team on the trip - four games in six days - but won’t play in Thursday’s playoff rematch in St. Louis, already billed as a tough task. It becomes tougher sans Parise.

“Obviously, we’re a better team with Zach in the lineup,” coach Mike Yeo said. “But we’re still good enough to win hockey games. We have to make sure that guys step up, and step up doesn’t mean that you go out and score two goals and take his extra time on the power play. Step up just means that you do your job effectively.”

Parise’s injury remained undisclosed after he missed a second straight practice Wednesday, but it could be related to a sprained ligament in his right knee that cost him eight games in November.

It’s unclear whether he’ll be available for games in Tampa, Sunrise, Fla., and Columbus.

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“Nothing that we’re concerned about (long term),” Yeo said.

But any time the Wild are without Parise is a concern. His 11 goals are tied for the most on the team, and they’re 4-3-1 without him.

“Zach is not a guy that you’re just going to go out there and replace,” said center Jason Pominville said. “He’s a big part of the team. It’s not one guy that has to be a hero; everyone has to step up and do different things.”

Parise’s absence Wednesday overshadowed what could another plan-altering injury.

Because of what Yeo called a “minor concussion,” backup goalie Darcy Kuemper won’t travel with the Wild this week.

The Wild have three goalies on the roster - starter Devan Dubnyk, Kuemper and veteran Niklas Backstrom - but it has become apparent that the Wild would rather not play Backstrom, whose $3.416 million cap is a sore spot hit for the team.

Backstrom hasn’t played since allowing six goals Jan. 13, a game that triggered the Wild’s trade for Dubnyk the next day.

But considering Thursday’s game in St. Louis kicks off seven Wild games in 13 days, there’s a chance Backstrom will play between the pipes.

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“If we need him, he’ll have to be ready,” Yeo said of Backstrom. “And I’m pretty sure that he will. He’s obviously a pro, he’s been around for a long time and I know he’s been waiting for an opportunity. So no guarantees of what’s going to happen, but there is a possibility.”

Dubnyk started 39 straight games for the Wild last season, the most consecutive starts by any goalie in seven years.

Now he may be beginning a similar stretch.

“Last year prepped me for it,” Dubnyk said. “It (comes at) a good time; I feel pretty good about my game on the ice. The important thing in a stretch like this is to just worry about the game that’s in front of you. You don’t want to start looking down the schedule and looking at this tough stretch. You just take it each day and use the rest when you have a chance.”

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
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