The Colorado Avalanche were a satisfied group Friday night, having just won for the 13th time in 16 games before an extended break that will offer some rest and a chance to reset before a potential Stanley Cup Playoffs run.
When they return, there will be a new addition to the lineup. And one Avs player who has known Zach Parise for more than two decades looked like the most exuberant guy of the bunch.
“Oh man, am I excited about that. I am thrilled about that,” Avs defenseman Jack Johnson said. “I’ve known him a long time. He’s a great pro, great teammate, great guy.
“You can’t have enough Zach Parises in your locker room.”
The 39-year-old Parise signed a one-year, $825,000 contract Friday with the Avs. He was a free agent after playing the two previous seasons with the New York Islanders and then not signing with anyone over the offseason.
He’s been training and skating on his own, and Parise will join one of the top Stanley Cup contenders. Parise reached the Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils in 2012, but he has yet to win a championship.
“He’s a highly dedicated player. When it comes to his habits, they are elite,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “A lot like (Andrew) Cogliano — an older guy who has been around, great leadership. I think you take his reliability. He’s played 82 games the past couple of years. It’s because he takes care of himself off the ice and has those types of habits that we really like. He chips in offensively, does a great job and you can trust him on the defensive side.”
Pairse scored 21 goals for the Islanders last season and has 69 points over the past two years combined. He will be the third-oldest player in the league when he makes his Avs debut, but Parise is also one of only 17 players who appeared in all 82 games in each of the past two seasons.
The Avs begin their bye week Saturday, which leads into the NHL All-Star break. Their next game is Feb. 5 against the New York Rangers, and they’ll see the club that drafted Parise in New Jersey the following night.
“We have some guys that are going to skate Friday and Saturday on their own,” Bednar said. “Then Sunday morning, we practice and leave. He’ll be here and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the ice either Friday or Saturday. But definitely Sunday morning before we go.”
The Avs have been light at forward ever since they traded offseason addition Tatar to the Seattle Kraken. He didn’t work out, scoring one goal and nine points in 27 games. Tomas
Colorado hopes Parise will fill a similar role in a better way. The Avs currently have a hole on the second line because Valeri Nichushkin is out indefinitely after entering the NHL/NHLPA Players Assistance Program.
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Parise is probably best as a bottom-six forward at this stage of his career, but he could be an option to fill in there for now.
“That is the need,” Bednar said. “I like the way our eight ‘D’ are playing. Our goaltending is starting to really shape up and turn around. The forward depth and adding someone, like Val’s gone for a while and we don’t know … it just seems like we’re always missing a piece or two. So adding some depth upfront, I think it’s really important. I think that was identified early in the season. The guys we have are doing everything they can and playing really well, but to be able to add a versatile guy like Parise will really help are lineup keep slotting into the right spots and put our guys in the best position to have success.”
Back to Johnson. Parise was two years ahead of him at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a decorated prep school in Minnesota. They spent two years together at the school, then eventually played together on the United States Olympic team in 2010 at the Vancouver Games.
“He was a guy I looked up to,” Johnson said. “I was fortunate to play for his dad. Great family, great guy. I couldn’t possibly say enough and I’m thrilled. He’s a great player.”