ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild were hit with a major setback in their first-round playoff matchup with Winnipeg, a broken sternum for left wing Zach Parise suffered in the last game that will keep him out for at least the remainder of the series and likely longer if they advance.
The Wild revealed the injury about three hours before Game 4 against the Jets, with a vague announcement on Tuesday by general manager Chuck Fletcher that declared Parise’s status as “week to week.”
Parise took a hard hit to the chest area with about four minutes remaining in Game 3 and the Wild leading 6-2, when he was sandwiched by Jets center Mark Scheifele and defenseman Ben Chiarot. Parise didn’t appear shaken up, and he spoke to reporters afterward without any sign of discomfort.
Tyler Ennis took Parise’s place in the lineup, and coach Bruce Boudreau shuffled his top three lines to adjust to the absence. Asked following the team’s morning skate if Ennis would play, Boudreau quipped, “Why would we change the lineup? We won. That’s my answer to that.”
The Wild are already missing standout defenseman Ryan Suter because of a broken right ankle, leaving the two friends who changed the course of the franchise by signing identical 13-year, $98 million contracts in free agency in 2012 on the shelf for the most important time of the season.
Parise scored in each of the first three games of the series. He is the Wild’s all-time playoffs leader with 14 goals and 31 points, and including his time with New Jersey he’s the most accomplished postseason skater on the roster with 74 career points in the playoffs.
After recovering from microdiskectomy surgery on his back that kept him out of the first 39 games, Parise found his stride down the stretch and tallied 12 goals and four assists in the last 19 games of the regular season. The Wild went 24-10-8 with him in the lineup and 10-2-1 when he scored a goal.
“He did great. Even when he came back, I said that it would be 20 games before he got his game together,” Boudreau said. “But if anybody knows Zach, he’s one of the hardest workers around, and he worked himself into getting ready to play. And when his back wasn’t hurting, that was tremendous, and then once he started getting back to normal, he became the player that everybody thought he was.”
The Wild, who’ve become well-accustomed to key players missing this season, were more concerned about Parise for the moment. Boudreau said he saw the “sadness on his face” after learning of the diagnosis on Monday.
“Here’s a guy that’s worked so hard to get back to where he was and so hard to want to play for his hometown and bring glory,” Boudreau said, “and he finally gets to that spot and this happens, you know?”
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