Zach Parise cleared for light skating

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils received some potentially promising news on Wednesday.

Left winger Zach Parise (knee surgery) has had no setbacks in his rehab so far and has been cleared by doctors to begin light skating as soon as possible.

General manager Lou Lamoriello said before Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Prudential Center that it will be at a minimum of two to three weeks before Parise can return to practice, assuming he has no further setbacks and builds up strength in both of his legs.

"He certainly isn't where he has to be with the strength of his leg and that should be another three weeks to get where he should be," Lamoriello said. "He'll be skating on his own for a period of time, a minimum of 2-3 weeks."

Parise underwent arthroscopic surgery on Nov. 2 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Parise suffered the injury on Oct. 30 in Los Angeles against the Kings. He has played in just 12 games this season, recording three goals and three assists.

Lamoriello said Parise, who is "excited" about the prospect of returning, should be able to appear in a game before the regular season is over.

"I would think so," Lamoriello said. "But to what extent I couldn't answer. When you get to this point with any injury, and I want to emphasis this, the last 10-15 percent is the most difficult. Getting up to a certain point, it's getting everything where it should be because you haven't been active for quite a while, and when you shut your knee and your leg down for this amount of time, and you're doing other exercises you're working different parts of your body and you have to be very careful when you come back."

Lamoriello said Parise's return will not be impacted by whether or not the Devils are in the playoff race. They currently trail the Carolina Hurricanes by 11 points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 20 games remaining.

"If he's ready, that would be any player, you're not gonna be released from physicians because there's playoffs or no playoffs," Lamoriello said. "You're going to be released because you're ready to play."

Lamoriello noted that Parise will continue to undergo physical therapy and see doctors regularly.

"He just can skate," Lamoriello said. "He can't do anything else. It's just all about getting the muscles going.

"It could be three, four, five weeks [before he returns]. I can't answer that. What I'm saying is it's all positive, there's no setbacks. Everything is successful and that's all we could've hoped for."

Parise, who led the team in scoring in each of the previous two seasons, is set to become a restricted free agent at season's end. The Devils have maintained all along that they'd like to offer him a multiyear extension.

In 419 career games, the 26-year-old sniper has recorded 163 goals and 178 assists. He set career highs in goals (45), assists (49) and points (94) during the 2008-09 season.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.