Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins was painful for all the Minnesota Wild players, but for none more so than forward Zach Parise.
Parise suffered an upper-body injury and missed the entire third period of the game, and Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said Parise won’t join the team on the upcoming road trip, which begins Thursday night in Ottawa.
The Wild have three straight road games at Ottawa, Montreal and New Jersey before hosting Buffalo on Nov. 13.
"Obviously a hole that is not easily filled," Yeo said Wednesday. "But there will be some opportunities for some guys here, for sure."
Parise leads Minnesota with 10 points this season and is tied for second with four goals. Yeo said Parise is meeting with doctors on Wednesday for further evaluation.
Asked if the injury could be long-term, Yeo said, "We hope not. . . . Until we have a chance for him to meet with the doctors and then we hear back from them, then we’ll know more."
Minnesota is already without forward Matt Cooke (lower body) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (upper body). Spurgeon is on injured reserve and Yeo said Cooke won’t be on the road trip, as well.
"Just play the way we’re supposed to play," center Mikko Koivu said of being without Parise, Cooke and Spurgeon. "We’ve got to play as a unit of five, play as a team and guys have to step up and fill for those guys that are out. We can’t use that as an excuse. Injuries are part of the game. We have to play the right way and make sure we’re on top of our game, and try to get as many points as we can."
The Wild have talked about their improved depth this season with the emergence of several young players and adding veterans Thomas Vanek and Ryan Carter. The depth will be tested without Parise.
Vanek took Parise’s spot on a line with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville in Wednesday’s practice. Vanek is second on the team with eight points and is tied for the lead with seven assists.
"(Vanek) was brought here to produce offense," Yeo said. "He’s been moving around some different linemates and certainly lately he’s been able to put up some points and help us there. The fact that he’s had chemistry with Pommer in the past and has had that experience of playing with him, Granny’s a smart player; we like to think that that line can definitely produce some offense."
Ballard getting closer: Keith Ballard (illness) practiced again on Wednesday and Yeo said he’s getting closer to being game-ready. Ballard has been limited to just one game this season and has missed the past six games because of the illness.
Ballard will be with the team on the road trip, but Yeo said he doesn’t expect the defenseman to play Thursday.
"Again, not a lot of practice time for him and that was quite the ordeal that he went through, and I think it took a bit of a toll on him," Yeo said. "I thought that he looked good today, actually, so that’s a good sign, and hopefully a couple more days here we’ll see how it goes."
Harding rehab progressing: Goaltender Josh Harding, who is out with a broken foot, was at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday and Yeo said Harding is possibly close to rejoining practices.
"He’s kind of going through some tedious work, but stuff that he needs to do before he can join us full-time," Yeo said. "Missing training camp, missing the time that he’s missed, it’s not something where you can just snap your fingers and all of a sudden be back, especially given the fact all the time he missed last year. Talking with (goaltender coach Bob Mason), he’s coming along well and he’s getting closer for sure."