ST. PAUL – Entering a playoff series against the NHL’s top offense, the Minnesota Wild could be without their leading scorer, their top checker and certainly will be without their fourth-leading scorer.
A Wild team that was fortunate to avoid many injuries during the stretch run of the regular season is suddenly banged up entering the most meaningful games.
Zach Parise, who has scored a team-high 25 goals, didn’t play in Saturday’s game against Calgary and missed practice Friday and Sunday due to an undisclosed injury that only yielded a “day-to-day” time frame from interim coach John Torchetti.
Now with only two practices separating the Wild from Game 1 Thursday of their best-of-seven playoff series with the Dallas Stars, Parise’s status is unclear.
“Haven’t even got there,” Torchetti said when asked if Parise might miss the series opener. “But whatever players are playing, that’s who we work with, and that’s how we prepare for the playoffs.”
Parise’s mysterious ailment is compounded by injuries to Wild forwards that seem to be rapidly arriving.
Erik Haula, the team’s best checker and the man who will be tasked with slowing Dallas’ vaunted top line if he plays, didn’t practice Sunday, either.
In what likely will be a theme, Torchetti also called Haula’s injury, “day-to-day.”
Haula’s absence would be tough for a Wild team that is without another center capable of playing in a speedy, defense-first, shutdown role.
Haula led the Wild with a plus-21 ratio and broke out under Torchetti, recording 21 points in his 27 games behind the bench.
Already ruled out for the start of the postseason is Thomas Vanek, sidelined by an injury stemming from a cross check to the ribs he took on March 29. His 18 goals this season were the fewest output of his career, but still enough to rank fourth in that category on the Wild.
If the Wild are without those three forwards, they’d be missing a combined 128 points from the lineup.
Parise led the team in goals and has played in more postseason games than any Wild player except Jarret Stoll.
The absence of a trio of forwards has re-ignited a competition for playing time.
Thanks to what Torchetti deemed impressive games since he took over in February, Chris Porter and Ryan Carter are the leading candidates to potentially replace the injured forwards in Game 1.
Porter was the lone player that Torchetti complimented by name after the Wild’s Saturday night loss to the Flames that closed their regular season.
Stoll, Zac Dalpe and Jordan Schroeder also are battling for ice time in the playoffs, but Porter and Carter seem to be the frontrunners to take advantage of potential openings.
“I had to go back when I had a few days off and looked at some film, and I really liked our team against Washington, and I really liked our team against Philly,” Torchetti said. “Porter and Carter were in both of them, so we need that physicality.”