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Devils claim Zach Parise will play this season, but should he?

Mar 24, 2011, 1:54 PM EDT

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The New Jersey Devils aren’t officially out of the Eastern Conference playoff race just yet, but with nine games to close a nine-point gap between themselves and the eighth place Buffalo Sabres, it’s probably a mere formality.

One can only imagine how much closer they could be if their young star Zach Parise didn’t suffer a serious knee injury on November 2nd. There were murmurs of a possibility that Parise might return yesterday and now Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is going on the record that the elite winger should play this season “unless something unforeseen happens.”

Rich Chere has the story. Lamoriello told Chere that Parise still must gain his surgeon’s clearance for contact, so whatever “time frame” the team and the player has, nothing is official yet.

Plenty of people wonder whether or not he’ll be able to come back, but I have a simple question: should he?

Joe rightly brings up the point that Parise will be a restricted free agent this summer, so both the player and the team might want to see where he is at. But is taking a moderate to considerable risk regarding his knee worth it, especially since a few games could be very deceptive – good or bad?

Just look at Brandon Roy of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, who rushed back from a knee injury for a different reason (the playoffs), but aggravated the injury and is still trying to get his career back in order.

It’s highly unlikely that the Devils will still be in the playoff picture by the time Parise is ready to come back, so it would be either simply to play or to prove his worth.

Overall, that seems like short-term thinking for what could be a long-term deal. Maybe the Devils should take a long look at his health. Perhaps Parise should opt for a one-year deal if his knee really is a concern. Either way, the Devils and Parise better make sure he’s really ready to come back.

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