Zach Parise missed 12 games in 2015-16 and still managed to lead the Minnesota Wild with 25 goals. Considering his production, it’s hard to imagine what Parise could have accomplished had he not been dealing with a back injury so bad that he was hobbled for much of the back half of the season.
Speaking with NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, Parise, 32, said that the injury began to flare up in January and that he played through numbness in his leg and foot until the end of the campaign. Parise told Gulitti he had been taking cortisone injections to alleviate his symptoms, but a hit from San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture with just one game left in the regular season made the injury the worst it had been to that point. So bad, in fact, that Parise lost feeling in his leg.
"It was really scary," Parise told Gulitti. "That's not very comfortable at all, for the longest time, having no feeling in your leg and in your foot. You are kind of wondering, 'When is this going to go away? When is this going to go away?' And one day I woke up and it was good, so it was good after that. But, at that time, it's really scary not feeling anything and really struggling to get out of bed.”
The production slip the injury caused could be seen, too. From October to December, Parise scored 11 goals and 22 points in 27 games — .81 points per game — but that fell to 14 goals and 31 points in the final 43 contests from January onward. That marked a drop to .72 points per game. As a team, the Wild’s goal scoring dropped off by .22 goals per game in the final three months of the season.
Following the Couture hit, Parise was forced to miss the final game of the season against the Calgary Flames and it made him questionable for a return in time for the post-season. It would turn out that Parise was unable to play at all in the first round of the post-season, and the Wild were sent packing by the Dallas Stars in six games.
But the early off-season has given Parise time to recover. He told Gulitti that his summer has seen him undergo “a lot of physical therapy” and that the injury has felt good for much of the past two weeks. Doctors told Parise that the key was getting away from the contact, telling Gulitti that doctors had to sit him down and hammer home that the only way for the back injury to properly heal was to get away from the game for a while.
Back skating now, Parise told Gulitti he feels “much better skating now” than he did months earlier, and he intends for everything to be back in working order by the time the Team USA World Cup of Hockey training camp begins in early September.
That doesn’t mean Parise is in the clear, though. He will have to keep an eye on his healthy during the season and take measures to ensure the wear and tear of a long season doesn’t put him out of the lineup again. Being held out of the lineup to heal the injury was likely a tough pill to swallow and not something Parise wants to have to deal with this upcoming campaign.
"This is not one of those things where you finish your rehab and quit," Parise told Gulitti. "They just don't want something to happen, so I'll be doing a lot of stuff during the season to try to keep the improvement going.”
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