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Marek Zidlicky, right, is the Wild's goal-scoring defenseman who hasn't been scoring goals.

John Ulan, Associated Press

Struggling Zidlicky a healthy scratch vs. Dallas

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • January 22, 2012 - 12:11 AM

He hasn't scored a goal, and a lot are being scored against when he's on the ice. Plus, the Wild has been in a tailspin since he came back to the lineup.

Sixteen games after returning from a concussion, Marek Zidlicky was finally yanked from the lineup Saturday -- a clear message the Wild can no longer afford to play the veteran defenseman if his game is going to be this erratic.

"I don't expect him to be happy. It's always an embarrassing thing to be a healthy scratch. It's a big blow to the ego," coach Mike Yeo said before the Wild's game against Dallas. "But we're doing it because we believe there's a lot more there. He can help our team an awful lot if he's playing his game the best that he can.

"We've tried a lot of things, so we have to try this."

Zidlicky, 34, an offensive defenseman who has no goals and 11 assists in 34 games, is a minus-9 the past 13 games and a minus-5 in the past two. After going 10-3 in the 13 games Zidlicky missed with injury, the Wild was 2-10-4 after his return.

To be fair, Zidlicky's return coincided with several injuries, and Yeo said: "I don't want this to come across that we're blaming Zid. There's a lot of problems right now. A big part of why we're doing it is because he's a guy that can pull us out. If he's playing as well as he can, then we're a much better team."

Zidlicky skated with fellow scratched defenseman Mike Lundin during Saturday's morning skate. He was told he wouldn't be playing officially during a post-morning skate meeting behind closed doors -- behind closed doors most likely because so much was made of the public back-and-forth he had with Yeo on the ice in November when Yeo talked to Zidlicky about his play.

Unhappy before the meeting, Zidlicky declined to comment after it. Other than sitting out the 2008 season finale when Nashville rested veterans for the playoffs, this was Zidlicky's first healthy scratch since Nov. 24, 2007, coincidentally against the Wild.

Zidlicky has a no-trade clause until the summer. He has one year left on a deal that pays him $4 million annually. You can bet the Wild would be willing to trade him before the Feb. 27 deadline.

"We've tried a lot of different things [to get Zidlicky's game on track] and hopefully he handles it the right way and uses this to come back and be better," Yeo said.

Hockey heaven

Lynne and Mike Rau had an exciting day Saturday.

They got to watch their son Kyle, who plays for the Gophers, take on son Chad's alma mater, Colorado College, at Mariucci, and then they hustled to Xcel to see Chad make his NHL debut with the Wild.

"Long day of hockey," Chad Rau said, smiling.

Rau, 25, made the day even better by scoring his first NHL goal. He was one of four Houston Aero callups (along with Matt Kassian, Nate Prosser and Jed Ortmeyer) thrust into Saturday's lineup. The Eden Prairie native became the 13th Minnesotan to skate for the Wild and sixth this season. He is also the sixth player to make his NHL debut for the Wild this season and 37th player to dress.

He said to do it on Hockey Day Minnesota "definitely adds to it."

By the way, since North Dakota's Ben Blood went after Kyle Rau during last weekend's handshake line, Chad has called his brother "Punching Bag."

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