Wild place Parise on IR, Harding nears return

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The Minnesota Wild placed Zach Parise on the injured reserve Tuesday, but a seemingly smaller move hints at the potential near-return of another key player: Josh Harding.

Minnesota reassigned goalie Johan¬†Gustafsson to the AHL’s Iowa Wild, heavily implying that Harding will at least dress as Niklas Backstrom’s backup against the New York Islanders on Sunday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo believes.

The Wild are only labeling Parise’s issue a lower-body injury, but people including Russo think that he’s sitting out games because of a foot injury from earlier this season. As you may remember, Parise came back well ahead of schedule from that issue, yet rumblings surfaced that his courageous comeback might have backfired.

Then again, maybe it’s a matter of timing a break for the maximum amount of rest with the minimum amount of games missed. Russo notes that the 29-year-old winger is eligible to return for Tuesday (Dec. 31), so that would mean missing only three contests since his last game on Dec. 22. (The Wild may opt to rest him more than that, naturally.)

Big picture-wise, it sounds like Parise and Harding are closing in on returns in the near future, which is great news for a Wild team that’s currently struggling with a four-game losing streak.