When Zach Parise originally inked a 13-year, $98 million, he didn’t think he would have to wait too long to face the team that drafted him, the New Jersey Devils. However, the lockout eliminated what would have been his first match against them and once play finally did resume, Western teams were kept from playing against the Eastern Conference.
Instead, he’ll face New Jersey roughly 16 months after he left them when the Minnesota Wild host them on Sunday.
The added buffer time will make things easier on Parise. When he left them, it was shortly after the Devils went to the Stanley Cup Final. It would have been against a team that looked very familiar to him and while the emotions of the 2011-12 campaign were fresher in everyone’s minds.
Instead, this he’ll be taking on a Devils team that’s faced tremendous hardships since his departure. They lost Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson after New Jersey failed to make the playoffs last season. Although they’ve been turning things around lately, they certainly haven’t looked like a serious playoff contender this season either.
That doesn’t mean this game won’t mean anything to Parise though.
“It will be really weird, I think,” he told the Star-Ledger. “You play with those guys for so long. I’m still good friends with a lot of the guys and I keep in touch with a lot of them. It will be weird facing off against them for the first time.”
Sunday’s match is the 7-4-3 Wild’s next contest, but the New Jersey Devils have to play the Philadelphia Flyers tonight before heading to Minnesota.