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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published January 20 2013

Schlossman: Parise may be a superstar Wild fans can finally embrace

St. Paul - Marian Gaborik is the only superstar the Minnesota Wild have ever had on the roster.

Yet because of his constant injuries and his apparent lack of interest in playing for the organization, fans were never able to fully embrace Gaborik.

The enigmatic right winger from Slovakia ditched the Wild for the New York Rangers three-and-a-half years ago, and it’s clear that fans in St. Paul don’t miss him. That’s because the Wild introduced a new superstar this weekend – and this one has been much easier for fans to love.

Former University of North Dakota standout Zach Parise made his Minnesota debut with games on Saturday and Sunday in the Xcel Energy Center, leading his team to a 2-0 start.

On Sunday, Parise scored the only goal of the game to give the Wild a 1-0 victory over the Dallas Stars. He has three points in two games since signing his 13-year, $98 million deal in the offseason.

“Even if somebody else scored that goal tonight,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said, “we’re still getting great return on that investment.

What can you say? The work ethic is unbelievable. It’s so many things.

We’re putting those guys (Parise’s line) against their top offensive line. They got the one goal. That’s the great thing about lines like that. If they don’t score, they’re still really good.”

There are many factors that make Parise easy for fans to love.

First off, he’s a native Minnesotan. Born in the Twin Cities, the left winger played down the road at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School.

Then he played college hockey in front of many Wild fans while at UND and in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Unlike Gaborik, who didn’t want to play for the Wild, Parise chose to return home during the offseason, despite the fact that other teams reportedly offered more money.

Fans also enjoy players who aren’t afraid to mix it up or get their nose dirty, and Parise’s game is anything but perimeter. Parise, who scored his goal on a one-timer from the point, said as much after Sunday’s win.

“I usually don’t score goals like that from that far out,” he admitted.

Parise’s goals usually come from the top of the crease, where he had two Grade-A chances later in the game.

He’s also a reliable defensive player. Parise played more on the penalty kill than any other Wild forward on Sunday night. He led Wild forwards with three blocked shots and he even threw two hits.

He received a huge ovation when he was announced as the game’s No. 2 star.

When asked after the game whether he ever plays 90 percent, Parise answered: “I’ve played in this league long enough to know what works for me. . . . When I’m not moving my feet, I don’t play as well. I’ve learned that’s the way I have to play.”

And that’s why Wild fans finally have a superstar they can fully embrace.