A year ago, Zach Parise would have been gearing up for a particularly uncomfortable visit to Prudential Center.

Before the NHL lockout wiped out three months of the 2012-13 season and forced the elimination of games outside the conference, the Minnesota Wild were scheduled to play in Newark on Nov. 11, 2012. It would have been Parise’s first game against the Devils after he left to sign a 13-year, $98 million contract as a free agent.

Now, with a 16-month buffer between the time he signed with the Wild and his first time facing the Devils, it will be easier for Parise when the two teams meet Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.

“I think it makes it a little easier,” Parise told The Star-Ledger via telephone. “Had we played that game on Nov. 11 last year in New Jersey, that would’ve been a little different. A few months earlier you’re playing with those guys in the Cup Finals and all of a sudden you’re playing against them. But a little over a year has gone by, so I think that will make it a little easier.”

How much easier?

“It will be really weird, I think,” he said. “You play with those guys for so long. I’m still good friends with a lot of the guys and I keep in touch with a lot of them. It will be weird facing off against them for the first time.”

Parise, whose wife Alisha is expecting twins in January (a boy and a girl), keeps in touch with Martin Brodeur, Andy Greene, Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique. But his closest buddy on the Devils was linemate Travis Zajac.

“It’s oviously more of a big deal for him than for us,” Zajac said of the game. “I don’t know what he’s thinking or how he feels about playing some of his friends but you see it all the time nowadays, so he’s just another player on the ice. Just another guy you’re up against.