SAINT PAUL, Minn. — If Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau made a new year’s resolution to have a healthier team in 2018, then things are going exactly according to plan. When the Wild host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, Boudreau will be able to fill out a line chart that includes star left winger Zach Parise for the first time this season.
Parise, who had back surgery in the fall, admitted after practice on Monday that it will be just like the start of a new season for him.
“I’m going to need a little bit of patience but I’m hoping to be able to contribute right away,” he said. “I just want to help out and each one of us wants to get this going and start climbing the standings. Leading up to the game I’ll be nervous, but that’s natural. For me it’s the same every year for the home opener and (Tuesday) for me is the opener so I don’t think it will be any different.”
Boudreau, while clearly happy to get Parise’s offense back, preached patience.
“I can’t sit here and say the expectations are he’s going to get three goals and two assists and be a life-saver when he gets there,” said the coach. “It’s tough when you’re playing your first game of the year in January. It’s going to take some time to get up to full speed I suspect. If he gets up there quicker, that’s awesome.”
Climbing the standings is the ultimate goal for the Wild, who closed 2017 by getting starting goalie Devan Dubnyk back from an injury and winning two in a row at home, before a 3-0 setback in Nashville during their last game.
By contrast, the Panthers have been red hot, with five consecutive wins. But they’re leaving Florida and coming north to Minnesota, where it’s been in the teens below zero, and it’s generally a bad place to try and stay warm. Much of extending the winning streak will fall on the shoulders of goalie James Reimer, who has shutouts in two of his past three starts.
“Now that it’s going good, it’s fun. The year can be a rollercoaster sometimes, things go your way, and sometimes they don’t, so you take it in stride and stick to your foundation,” said the goalie, who blanked the Canadiens 2-0 in his last 2017 start. “When you’re feeling good, the puck’s big and you’re reading plays.”
The Panthers played their last four at home, and prior to that were in Nevada and Arizona, so this will be their first cold weather trip in weeks, but their coach said there’s a new attitude among the Panthers brought on by winning.
“It’s great. You always have a smile on your face when you come to the rink, and you feel energized. When things are going good and you’re confident as a player,” Bob Boughner said. “Coaches are the same. We’re always looking for things that we can do better and preparing for opponents, but it’s nice to see that the room’s in a good place.”
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