Wild's Kurtis Foster planning to use final games to prove himself

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 25, 2012 - 1:13 AM
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Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jared Spurgeon getting a season-jeopardizing concussion is not the way Kurtis Foster wanted to get back into the Wild's lineup Saturday night, but with nine games left in the season, the veteran defenseman hopes to take advantage of the opportunity heading into a summer of uncertainty.

Foster, 30, is on his third team this season and knows it's not ideal to head into free agency as an every-night healthy scratch.

"I've got nine games to show the team, to show myself and to show the league that I can still play in this league," said Foster. Against the Buffalo Sabres, he played only his seventh game since returning to Minnesota -- where he played from 2005 to '09 -- in last month's Marek Zidlicky trade with New Jersey.

Foster had been scratched in five consecutive games and six of the previous eight.

"I talked to [coach Mike Yeo] the other day and just made sure he knew that I wasn't content sitting out every night," Foster said. "I want to play and I think I can play and I think I can help. He told me basically that he's been happy with the way guys have been playing.

"You really can't say anything against that. Guys have been playing well, a couple big wins. I just had to wait my turn. Tonight's my chance to make sure I don't come out of the lineup again."

Foster says he has been working with assistant coaches Darryl Sydor and Rick Wilson on his footwork, which Foster admits has slowed since he broke his leg in 2008. But Foster is confident he can bring a solid shooting dimension to the Wild these final few weeks.

A strong finish should help him land a job this summer.

"Sitting out is never a good thing, so I want to get in and contribute, and when you're contributing the way that I think I can, it should lead to good things," he said.

Eyes on Zucker

With the University of Denver's season over, the Wild will try to sign 2010 second-round draft pick Jason Zucker to an entry-level contract.

Over and over, General Manager Chuck Fletcher has said the plan is for six forwards to turn pro next season. He's including Zucker; the other five are unsigned Mikael Granlund and signed Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson, Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips.

Zucker, who could not be reached for comment Saturday, told the Star Tribune on March 6 that he had not decided yet if he would leave school after his sophomore season but planned to talk it over with Fletcher, Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky and his father, Scott, after the season.

If the Wild signed Zucker, the contract likely would begin next season, although he could sign an amateur tryout contract to play in Houston of the American Hockey League the rest of this season. That will depend on his health, because he sustained a significant elbow injury in the WCHA final.

Etc.

• One prospect Wild fans might see again this season is Bulmer, who played nine games earlier this year. The Wild could recall him on an emergency basis if it ran out of forwards because of injury if Kelowna is eliminated from the WHL playoffs. The Rockets trailed their series against Portland 1-0.

• Coyle and Phillips have combined for eight goals and 11 assists in Saint John's QMJHL series against Cape Breton. Saint John's leads 2-0.

• Yeo said goalie Niklas Backstrom's lower-body injury that kept him in Minnesota is not an aggravation of his recent groin injury. Yeo said the plan is for Backstrom to practice Monday. Matt Hackett's sticks didn't arrive with him in Buffalo, so in warmups he used Backstrom's stick and wrote "Hackstrom" on it.

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