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February 3, 2012 | 9:48am ET
He just wants to win
 Patrick Kearns sat down with Zach Parise to discuss his future with the Devils.

NEW YORK, NY -- Almost every GM in the NHL will have the name Zach Parise scribbled atop their free agent wish-list come July 1. But for now, and the uncertain future, he remains property of the New Jersey Devils, a place he is happy to call home.

There have been talks of an extension since the first day he inked a new one-year contract extension. The two parties couldn't formally agree to a new deal until just a few days ago, but as of now there has not been a new contract signed. And for Zach, it's currently the furthest thing from his mind.

"I don't allow that to creep in," Parise said, referring to his impending free agency and contract uncertainty.

"Once you start to think about that too much, then it can effect your game. The time will come for all that stuff, but right now that's not the main focus."

It has, however, been a banner year for the 27 year-old Devils forward. He spent much of last year nursing a torn meniscus, and only suited up for 13 total games. This year he has returned to form, and been a god-send for the Devils who had missed the playoffs last year for the first time since the mid 90s.

And while it took a while for Parise to get his legs, and re-assimilate himself into the everyday grind of a season, he is really beginning to hit his stride.

"It took longer than I expected to really feel good again on the ice," he lamented while looking back to the beginning of the season.

"It almost felt like it took about 20 games, and then I finally started to play with a little more confidence, and feel consistently better."

As well as getting back on the ice regularly, he was bestowed upon with another honor this past summer. Zach was named the 9th captain in the team's relatively brief, but storied, history.

"I didn't know it was gonna happen, but it's definitely a special thing."

He also referenced the many other leaders in the Devils locker-room, which makes his job a lot simpler. In a strong room, there is a level of respect amongst all the players, and they tend to perform at the highest level possible every night. Players also step up when their teammates falter to pick-up the slack, and the way the Devils have played thus far shows that Parise has done a bang-up playing for the first time with a bold C on his sweater.

And to deftly juggle the pressure of being both a leader and performer on the ice, consistency is key for Parise. Whether it be in his daily work-out, or on the ice in front of thousands of fans at the team's home arena The Prudential Center, it's important for him to keep his routine the same. Even his pre-game ritual is nothing specific, just consistency.

"I like to be structured. I don't like to be rushed," he said. "I listen to the same music on the way to the rink, and when I get to the rink I try to do the same thing at the some time every game. Whether it's taping your sticks or stretching, or going into the hot tub, it's things like that you find that you just consistently do and that makes your feel good."

Parise further explained the ritual of his consistency, and threw in a little superstition, which is something most athletes buy into.

"You listen to a certain song before a game, then you go out and score two goals, you try to listen to it again the next game," he said.

Off the ice, Parise has been incredibly involved in the local communities of New Jersey. He strongly supports local township libraries, and is involved with youth hockey programs at different ice-rinks around the state. Simply, he is a family man, and spends his downtime with his loved ones every single chance he gets.

"We're on the road a lot, and we at restaurants a lot. When I'm home I like to eat at home, I like to get a home-cooked meal," he explained.

Although, he admits, he does take advantage of living in the New York Metro area.

"We definitely like to go into New York," Parise acknowledged. "That's the one great thing about living around here in New Jersey or New York, the restaurants are just awesome... As a person who lives here, you have to take advantage of it."

It has been a great turn-around season for the Devils who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The team has performed well under new Head Coach Peter DeBoer. There is always room for improvement, but considering last year's standings at the time, it's impressive how far the club has come. And while it can't be completely attributed to Parise, his presence is a huge influence.

"I think there's definitely some games we look back on and think we could have won, but i think were correcting our mistakes."

While uncertainty shrouds Zach Parise, it's far too early for Devils fans to panic. The forward has enjoyed a great deal of success in New Jersey, and will likely work towards signing an extension before the 29 other GMs even get a stab at their coveted free agent.

But for Zach Parise, it's all about winning right now.

Patrick Kearns is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the New York Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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