ST. PAUL -- Highly accomplished veteran Zach Parise talked openly last week about his diminishing role in the Wild lineup. He has watched his average ice time steadily decrease this season and now finds himself playing on the fourth line alongside Nico Sturm and opposite Nick Bonino.
It’s uncharted territory for the 36-year-old winger who has built such an impressive resume over his 16 years in the NHL. He has spent most of his career to this point playing big minutes in the biggest moments. Now he’s not even getting time on the power play.
“It’s been pretty unique where my role has definitely changed here,” Parise said last week. “Not playing as much. It’s a bit of an adjustment. That’s definitely been challenging.”
But Parise vowed last week to take this challenge in stride, and work hard regardless of where he plays in the lineup. In that sense, Parise’s play over the past week or so shouldn’t come as a surprise.
While the Wild have been extremely inconsistent as of late — they beat the Colorado Avalanche 8-3, lost to the St. Louis Blues 9-1, then beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-2 all in the span of a week — Parise has brought his “A” game every single night.
“You don’t really have a choice but to accept it,” he said of his mindset. “Just practice the right way and work on my game as much as I can, so if there is an opportunity to get on the power play, or there is an opportunity to get out there more, I’m ready to go.”
His best game in recent memory came Wednesday against the Coyotes. He had a goal and an assist in his 11½ minutes of ice time and impressed coach Dean Evason with his tenacious approach throughout the game.
“There’s never a doubt on Zach Parise’s work ethic,” Evason said. “You’ve watched him over the years in practice and obviously games. He competes his butt off, and he’s going to do that each and every night. That clearly has allowed him to have not only success as of late but throughout his entire career.”
Though not surprising considering his immense pride as a player, Parise’s response to his current situation has been impressive nonetheless. He has continued to bring the intensity, and in doing so, has deepened the Wild lineup as a whole.
“That’s a strength of a lot of guys on this team,” Bonino said. “They can play top line minutes and come in and give 10 to 12 good minutes. Nobody has complained about it, and that’s why we are where we are in the standings. It’s definitely a thing that is an adjustment, but it helps the team.”
That’s made Evason’s life easier, knowing he can trust the Parise-Sturm-Bonino line at a moment’s notice.
“It’s great to have balance,” the coach said. “If we’re able to trust that each and every line’s going to get the job done, not only defensively, but have an opportunity to get the job done offensively, then it makes for easy decisions when we’re calling lines.”