DALLAS – Wild forward Jason Zucker averaged nine minutes of ice time on the fourth line with no shots the past three games. There was a reasonable chance he would be a healthy scratch Monday night with veteran Mike Rupp ready to return against the Dallas Stars.
That is why the Wild chose to return the rookie back to the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League on Sunday.
It’s not permanent. But five games earlier, Pierre-Marc Bouchard retook his second-line spot thanks to Anaheim’s Corey Perry knocking Zucker from the lineup with a head shot. The Wild had won all five games, with Bouchard recording seven points.
“It’s the same as [Mikael] Granlund and even [Marco] Scandella, once the minutes drop for young players, it makes much more sense to get them back to Houston playing,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “When you’re a young player, it’s important you’re playing a lot of minutes.
“If we call him again, he’s going to be in a much better spot.”
It has been five weeks since Zucker had even played the power play, so returning to a top-line spot on a first power-play unit in Houston should help Zucker.
“He came up and scored [four] goals and did really well for us,” Fletcher said. “There are ups and downs as a youngster, and now he sees the other side of pro hockey where he’s sent down. At this age, ice time is paramount. It’s helped Granlund a lot. His game has just gotten better and better [six points in five games], and I expect Jason to do the same.
“We have a lot of games in a short period of time in the next few weeks. Things change quickly. We need these guys to be ready in case.”
Clutterbuck hurt, returns
Forward Cal Clutterbuck was injured in the first period Monday when he crashed hard into the Dallas Stars net. Clutterbuck’s right leg hit violently into the left post. Clutterbuck was in immediate pain and had to be helped off the ice. He put no weight on his right leg.
Clutterbuck returned to the game in the second period, missing 14 minutes of action, and added two assists in the third.
Hackett to AHL — for now
Matt Hackett, the Wild’s backup goalie the past eight games, was temporarily reassigned so he can start for the Aeros on Tuesday against Texas — his first game since March 2.
In order to give Niklas Backstrom a rare rest, the Wild decided it needed to give Hackett an Aeros start because it might want him to play either Friday’s game in Dallas or Saturday’s home game against Los Angeles.
Coach Mike Yeo said the team hasn’t decided, but if there’s a chance Backstrom won’t start in Friday against the Stars, “there’s some logic” to not even making him travel to Dallas and going with a Hackett-Darcy Kuemper tandem.
Also, Fletcher said Josh Harding, who hasn’t played since Feb. 7 because of symptoms related to multiple sclerosis, is “getting better and better and he’s going to probably start practicing in the near future. I don’t know what to expect. We’ll see how his health is.”
A reluctant honoree
Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor, who played 715 games over three stints with the Stars and won a Stanley Cup in 1999, was honored before Monday’s game.