To his credit, winger Zach Parise hasn’t sulked about his current role in the Wild lineup. He has taken his placement on the fourth line in stride and tried to make the most of it.
That doesn’t mean Parise is satisfied with being a fourth-liner. In fact, the 36-year-old veteran said before Friday’s game against the San Jose Sharks that he wants to “make it a difficult decision” for coach Dean Evason moving forward.
There was no malice in that comment whatsoever. Just a lot of pride from a player who has made a living with his competitive nature.
“Everyone wants to play more, and I’m no different,” Parise said. ” I feel like I can, and I want to keep proving that I can.”
There’s been a noticeable uptick in Parise’s game as of late. He scored a goal and tallied an assist in Wednesday’s win over the Arizona Coyotes and looked like his usual energetic self on the ice.
“I definitely feel like I’m playing better than I was at the beginning of the year,” Parise said. “I feel like I’m making good plays when I get the opportunities and when I’m getting the puck. Hopefully I’m going to do my best to continue that.”
It’s no secret that winger Mats Zuccarello is known as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. Asked about it earlier this season, Zuccarello admitted that he’d rather set up a pretty goal rather than score it himself.
That said, Zuccarello has found a knack for putting the puck in the back as of late. He had a pair of goals in Wednesday’s win and appears to be finding his groove at the right time.
“You think of him as a guy that’s making plays to (Kirill Kaprizov) or whoever,” Evason said. “I bet he’s been told his entire career to shoot the puck more because he has such a great release and a quick release and a hard shot.”
As long as Zuccarello is playing the game with pace, though, Evason said he doesn’t mind him making the extra pass.
“You see him several times in a hockey game where he pushes the D back and then he has that ability to hook off or pull up and then find the vision after that to find the open player,” Evason said. “When he plays the game with pace like that, his passing is going to be exceptional, and when he shoots the puck, it’s going to have a chance to go in the net.”
Sharks veteran Patrick Marleau has officially played in 1,766 career games. He hit that mark in Friday’s game between the Wild and Sharks, and if everything goes according to plan, Marleau will tie Gordie Howe’s legendary mark in Saturday’s game.
A couple of days after that, Marleau likely will pass Howe for most games played in NHL history.
“That’s a crazy number,” said Parise, who has played in 1,049 career games said. “Just having passed 1,000 games, I think I’ve played a lot, and then I see he’s about to do almost double. The guy has had an outstanding career and one of the more respected guys in the league.”
It’s an unfathomable number to Evason. He played 803 career games and can’t imagine playing more than double that.
“Anybody that’s played the game at any level knows how hard a game it is,” Evason said. “You’re skating around on a couple of quarter-inch pieces of steel. It’s absolutely incredible to play that long and that many games and still be playing with the pace he plays the game at. It’s a tremendous honor for him for sure.”
Nick Bjugstad has started skating on his own after missing the past couple of weeks with an upper-body injury. Asked if Bjugstad will travel on the upcoming road trip, Evason responded, “Haven’t got that far yet.”