Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2011—Devils fans held their breath as the Devils battled back against the Southeast Division-leading Lightning and as New Jersey's coveted young superstar waited to receive clearance on skating after having surgery on his meniscus.
After playing only 12 games in the 2011 season, most of which were played while being hurt, Zach Parise saw his sixth season get cut short due to a partial tear in his meniscus, which he injured in the preceding summer and further hurt during the early stage of the season.
Parise was treated by doctor Anthony Minaci of the Cleveland Clinic, and after three months of recuperation, Parise was finally given the green light to begin skating lightly. With a surging and more importantly, believing Devils squad clawing their way toward a playoff spot, Parise is as anxious to return, as the fans want him to.
However, Parise is at the very least two to three weeks away from being allowed to practice with the team.
GM Lou Lamoriello was quoted by Tom Gulitti of NorthJersey.com to say, "When I say two to three weeks that's just the minimum." I have a feeling that it will definitely be longer than that.
Parise and his agent both know the future is the brightest piece of Parise and his game. The 26-year-old won't be rushed back before he knows it is 100 percent safe.
Parise hasn't skated in three months, let alone played at game speed while being hit. The Devils have never been known to rush players back, what would make the situation with a star in his prime any different?
Two to three weeks is pushing the limit for not having touched the ice in three months, but if Parise can get back in shape and practice in two to three weeks, then that's a promising sign.
Three weeks would mean Parise would be available to on Friday, Mar. 25 in Pittsburgh. Four weeks would be Wednesday, Mar. 30 at home against the Islanders. That could be a realistic goal for Parise, pending his shape in the coming weeks.
If Parise doesn't play in exactly four weeks against the Islanders, I believe it's possible he will return on Friday, Apr. 1 for a home game against Philadelphia. That would leave Parise with six games of experience with hopefully more to come in the playoffs.
Parise returning all depends on the Devils staying hot, receiving clutch performances by Kovalchuk and keeping that sparkling 1.59 goals against that they've sustained over the last 22 games.
With two games in hand and one head-to-head battle against the Rangers, the Devils may be able to pull within closer striking distance of the Rangers, opposed to the current eighth-place team, Carolina.
If they stay hot and pull within striking distance, Devils fans can expect to see Parise suited up for that Apr. 9 showdown in Madison Square Garden.