ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild training camp began with one notable absence: Zach Parise.
He’s being held off the ice for now because of a back injury, his status considered day to day. Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the first split-squad practices Friday that he believes Parise will join the team soon enough. Still, it’s an issue worth watching with Parise, who missed the playoffs after the 2015-16 season because of a back injury.
“As soon as the trainers tell me he’s ready to go, he’ll be here,” Boudreau said. “I really don’t think it’s overly serious. It’s just overly precautious.”
The 33-year-old left wing had 19 goals and 23 assists in 69 games in 2016-17, his lowest points total in a non-lockout season since his rookie year with New Jersey.
“It’s great that we have seven preseason games to get everybody looked at, but as long as we’re ready for game one, that’s all that matters,” Boudreau said, “and if somebody has to take a day or two off of the preseason skates, then so be it.”
There are six invitees on tryout contracts among the 58 players in camp, include veteran NHL forwards Ryan Malone and Daniel Winnik. The 37-year-old Malone, who spent the majority of his career with Tampa Bay, did not play in the league in either of the last two seasons. The 32-year-old Winnik had a career-high 12 goals with a plus-15 rating last season for Washington.
With more depth on the Wild front lines this year than last, they’re long shots for now.
“Even when I’ve had contracts, I think the goal for other guys is always trying to take my job,” Winnik said. “I think unfortunately for myself, GMs are looking for young guys to take my job. I’ve been used to having to work and battle for my spot on the team. This year is a little different where I have to work to get a contract and maybe take someone else’s job.”
The beginning of training camp last season was largely a get-to-know-you session with Boudreau and the players, but now there’s no mystery about his up-tempo system. Even the grueling conditioning test, skating timed laps around the ice, was no surprise after last year’s gut-buster.
“It seems like every coach has their own little signature way of getting you, so to speak,” said 40-year-old center Matt Cullen, adding: “That’s one thing that’s kind of held with me now, is that I can still kind of skate. So that’s one of the few tests that I can manage and hold my own.”
Cullen made his formal return to Minnesota, where he first played for three seasons from 2010-13 in his native state.
“It sinks in a little bit more when you get on the ice with the guys, you put the sweater on and get out there in the big building,” Cullen said. “It kind of hits home a little bit more.”