Zach Parise remaining top-line candidate for Islanders alongside Mathew Barzal, Kyle Palmieri: ‘We’re comfortable with it’

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Zach Parise Islanders
Zach Parise
Photo courtesy of the New York Islanders

At 38 years old, Zach Parise isn’t maxing out equipment in the weight room anymore. He just began skating a little earlier than usual during the offseason to begin prepping for his 18th NHL season.

“I just like to play hockey,” he began in an exclusive conversation with amNewYork. “I like to be on the ice.”

That goes without saying, but it takes a special kind of appreciation for the game to do what he’s done in recent years. 

The veteran forward overcame a rash of injury issues during his final seasons with the Minnesota Wild to become the only member of the New York Islanders — in his debut season with the team, no less — to play in all 82 games last year while dodging the rash of COVID and injury issues along with an inconsistent and burdensome schedule.

Shrugging off an agonizingly slow start, he scored 14 of his 15 goals last season in the final 49 games of the campaign — providing a versatile and tenacious style of play on all four lines, the penalty kill, and the power play that earned him minutes on the first line alongside Mathew Barzal and Kyle Palmieri. The trio combined for goals in each of the Islanders’ last three games and four in their final five. 

It seems to have left an impression on first-year head coach Lane Lambert, who was working as Barry Trotz’s assistant last season, as he’s joined the three together on Thursday morning at Islanders camp. 

“He comes as expected every day,” Lambert said of Parise. “He’s a leader, he works, he battles. He sets an example, basically.”

Normally, this is the part of the program where we tell you not to take too much stock into preseason line combinations. But this might be an exception to the rule.

“Him and Barzal work pretty good together,” Lambert said. “We’ll see where that goes… Just a true pro is what he is.”

Message received.

“I’ll play whatever position they throw me in, whatever line they throw me in. Kyle, Mat, and I finished the season really well last year,” Parise added. “We had some good chemistry, we scored some goals, played well together. Maybe they were looking at that and that’s how they want to start the year.

“Then it’s up to me to do my best to perform and earn that spot and stay there. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. We have four good centers. But hopefully, we can stick together.”

It’s no secret that Parise’s best days are behind him, obviously, and the notion of him potentially playing on the first line alongside Palmieri and Barzal would be received with an underwhelming tone from a fan base that dreamed of potentially bringing on the likes of Johnny Gaudreau this summer. But Palmieri has put up an 82-game average of 26 goals since turning 30 — and that’s including a one-goal-in-33-game stretch to start his Islanders career.

“Hopefully, I can get off to a better start than last year,” he said. “I’ll do whatever, I don’t care. That doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m happy to be here and do whatever’s asked.”

His potential first-line mate in Palmieri seems just fine with the thought of working alongside Parise once again.

“Zach’s an incredible player… To have the opportunity to play with [him and Barzal], it’s a huge opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it,” Palmieri told amNewYork. “I think we enjoyed playing with each other as a line. We read off each other well. We bring a little different style to each other.

“I think it’s something that works. We’re comfortable with it, and we want to take the opportunity here to build a little chemistry and get the ball rolling in the right direction.”

For more on the Islanders and Zach Parise, visit AMNY.com

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