Veteran Wild forward Zach Parise felt like he was starting to find his groove last month. After a frustrating couple of months, the 36-year-old winger finally had accepted a reduced role in the lineup, and looked highly motivated to prove he could still play at an elite level.

Though it wasn’t translating into numbers in the box score every game, Parise was engaged in both ends, and it felt like only a matter of time before he started to get rewarded for his efforts.

That changed when Parise landed on the COVID list. He returned a positive test on March 24 and spent the next week and a half away from the team.

“It wasn’t ideal,” Parise said. “I thought I played some really good games before it happened, so the timing of it wasn’t great. What do you do? That’s what I was dealt with.”

Asked about his experience with the virus, Parise said he’s still not convinced he actually had COVID. To make his point, he referenced how he returned a false positive test previously.

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“I felt nothing the whole time I was out,” Parise said. “You’d have a hard time convincing me that I was sick.”

Still, Parise followed the league protocols while on the COVID list. He stayed home during that span and returned to practice on April 3 after being cleared.

“I didn’t really have much of a choice on that,” he said. “That part was frustrating, thinking there’s really nothing wrong with me.”

Now that he’s back in the lineup, Parise is eager to prove he can still be a difference-maker.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I am and that I can be,” he said. “I definitely want to show that I can play the game the right way.”

This has been the least productive season of Parise’s 16-year NHL career. He has 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 29 games this season, and his 15 minutes, 35 seconds of ice time per game is the lowest since his rookie season with the New Jersey Devils in 2005-06.

“It has been frustrating,” Parise said. “It’s been pretty unique where my role has definitely changed here, not being on the power play and not playing as much. It’s a bit of an adjustment. That’s definitely been challenging.”

Has it been hard to accept?

“You don’t really have a choice but to accept it,” Parise said. “Just practice the right way and work on my game as much as I can, so if there is an opportunity to get on the power play, or there is an opportunity to get out there more, I’m ready to go.”

In the meantime, Parise said he is focused on having a positive attitude. He knows that can go along way as the Wild continue their push toward the playoffs.

“Just be a good teammate around the guys and support the guys that are in those roles,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep winning.”