Zach Parise looks, sounds and confirms he indeed is more relaxed and comfortable in his second training camp with the Islanders as compared to last year, when he joined the team as a free agent after the Wild bought out the final four seasons of his 13-year, $98 million deal.
It’s crucial to the Islanders and Parise to have his increased comfort level translate to an increase in offensive consistency. Among the things that need to go right after last season’s playoff miss is finding suitable linemates for Mathew Barzal, and Parise has been working with the sleek-skating playmaker since training camp opened.
Kyle Palmieri joined their line as the Islanders beat the Flyers, 2-1, on Sunday night in the first-ever preseason game at UBS Arena.
“It was a pretty slow start [last season]. That’s an understatement,” said Parise, who had one shot in 16:19, including 1:27 on the power play and 2:42 on the penalty kill.
“I’m just more relaxed being here and being part of this team. Mentally, it was really hard last year. With everything that went on in Minnesota, it was really hard to rebound and feel good about my game again.”
Parise, 38, finished with 15 goals and 20 assists last season as the lone Islander to play in all 82 games. But that was after starting without a point in his first seven games, without a goal in his first 22 games and with one goal through his first 33 games.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello showed his trust in Parise — their relationship dates to Parise’s first eight seasons in the Devils’ organization — by re-signing him to a second one-year, $1.5 million deal on March 21 rather than trading him as a playoff rental.
Parise, who has 408 goals and 437 assists in 1,142 NHL games mainly by working hard around the crease, did establish some comfort skating with Barzal last season. It’s not an easy task, as Barzal’s unique puck-handling and improvisational skills can confuse linemates as to where to position themselves in the offensive zone.
“It’s more watching video and learning,” Parise said. “He likes to pull up. With his edges, when he pulls up on a guy, he creates so much space. There’s a lot of times where I have to tell myself, ‘Don’t just go to the net.’ Because he’s going to shake a guy and then, a lot of times, my guy has to go to him, so now I’m open for a split-second.”
Parise’s best chance against the Flyers came at 13:46 of the third period as Barzal fed him in the slot from behind the crease. Flyers goalie Samuel Ersson smothered Parise’s hard shot.
Notes & quotes: Palmieri, on the power play, and defenseman Scott Mayfield scored second-period goals . . . Semyon Varlamov stopped 16 of 17 shots in two periods and Jakub Skarek stopped all eight shots he faced in the third . . . Defense prospect Samuel Bolduc joined the non-game group for their morning practice, marking his first time in team drills in eight days.