ST. PAUL, Minn. — Zach Parise was originally given a two to three week timeframe when he suffered a left foot contusion on Monday after blocking a shot from St. Louis’ Alex Steen.
He missed one game.
“It’s not surprising,” forward Dany Heatley said. “The guy’s a tough guy. He plays through a lot. We need him in the lineup and we’re happy to have him back.”
Parise, the Minnesota Wild’s leading scorer with 22 points, had returned to practice on Wednesday but wasn’t able to play in Wednesday’s game. He said he knew right away on Friday he would be playing, but the team held off on announcing his return until after he made it through the pregame skate. Rookie Justin Fontaine was scratched for Friday night’s 3-1 loss to Colorado.
Defenseman Ryan Suter said he wasn’t surprised Parise returned so quickly.
“No, I mean, he’s a warrior,” Suter said. “That’s what he is. He wants to be out there. It’s a great attribute to a good player. It’s good that he wants to play. The top players, you need those guys and he’s one of our best players. It says a lot that he wanted to play.”
Parise played 23 minutes, 3 seconds and had four shots on goal. Parise eschewed using a plastic shot-blocking protector over his skate because he felt it was too heavy.
“It was fine. It was OK,” Parise said.
Haula makes his debut: Erik Haula, the former University of Minnesota forward and 2009 seventh-round pick by the Wild, made his NHL debut on Friday after being recalled from Iowa of the American Hockey League earlier in the day because Mike Rupp left the team for personal reasons.
“For sure, the first shift there’s obviously some butterflies,” Haula said. “But I got it out of the way real quick and that was my goal, too, to try to just put everything aside and just try to play with my strengths.”
Haula centered the second line, playing with Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter at the start. He earned his first NHL point with an assist on Heatley’s goal. Haula said he’s played center all but one game with Iowa this season.
“I thought he looked very good right from the start,” coach Mike Yeo said. “First period he made a couple of great plays and certainly didn’t look out of place. There’s some things that we have to work with him and teach. Not pointing fingers at him, but that second goal, these are things that we have to work with him on. He’s a smart kid. He’s going to figure it out. He made some plays tonight. His speed is evident. And I liked what he brought.”
Haula is the third player to make his NHL debut this season for Minnesota, joining Fontaine and defensemen Mathew Dumba.
Konopka out for Saturday: Yeo said center Zenon Konopka will miss Saturday’s game at Colorado after the he took a puck to the eye in the first period on Friday.
“I don’t think that it’s going to be serious,” Yeo said. “The swelling, there’s no way it’s going to be able to go down by tomorrow and obviously he can’t see well enough.”
Konopka’s absence leaves the team short at center again. The Wild were already without Mikael Granlund, who is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury after leaving Wednesday’s game after one shift. Yeo also wants to keep Charlie Coyle as a right wing on the first line with Parise and Mikko Koivu right now.
“The lineup is in flux,” Yeo said. “We’ve got different guys going out there and playing with different people, different times. We’ve got to figure it out as coaches. We’ve got to figure out matchup-wise. We’ve got to figure it out role and identity-wise. But more importantly, regardless of who you’re out there with, it’s your job. What’s your job? What are you supposed to do? What do we need from you? And that’s what we need right now.”
Heatley finding his scoring touch: Heatley has been maligned this season as the once 50-goal scorer has spent time on the lower lines for Minnesota. But Heatley has been one of the few offensive producers for the Wild in recent games.
Heatley scored his sixth goal of the season Friday and has four goals and five points in his last six games.
“I think opportunity has a lot to do with it,” Heatley said. “I think the last few games I’ve played 18, 19 minutes and it’s nice to get a regular shift. You get into a rhythm a little bit better and tonight I felt good, as well.”