Jason Zucker made the Wild out of training camp last season on the fourth line and began this season on the first line.
He has played with virtually every player on the Wild as a linemate at one time or another, but Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks, Zucker was pretty sure it was the first time he skated with Thomas Vanek on a regular line.
Vanek, who entered with no points in six games, and Zucker, with no points in 10 games, bookended center Mikko Koivu. Both Vanek, on a power play, and Zucker, at even strength set up by Vanek, scored in the first period as the new line clicked. Vanek and Koivu each had four-point nights.
Coach Mike Yeo was hoping Vanek and Zucker, two offensively-gifted players, could each help spark the other.
“He’s a world-class passer and playmaker and a very offensive guy. He’s very, very good at that,” Zucker said Tuesday morning. “Hopefully with my speed I can help get open in some areas and hopefully some of his passes can spring me a little bit.”
Zucker, a left-shot winger whose natural position is left wing, began last season on the right side. He said the game doesn’t change except in the defensive zone, “but the nice part with [the right-shot] Vanek out there, we can interchange. Whoever is the first guy back in the zone can take the strong side and the second guy can take the weak side.”
Zucker entered Tuesday with no goals or assists since scoring Nov. 19 at Boston. In the final seconds of that game, Zucker was slashed across the back of the leg by Matt Beleskey. Zucker said it’s just a coincidence that he’s been scoreless since then. He said he’s completely healthy.
“The points are the least of my worries,” Zucker said before the game. “Realistically, I’m just trying to get back to the way I can play and I think last game [in San Jose] was a very good step in that direction. My game is being aggressive, skating hard and getting to the right areas and beating guys to loose pucks.
“A few games back, I wasn’t really doing that and that’s how I got away from things, but points haven’t really had to do with that frustration.”
• Grand Rapids (Mich.) left wing Eric Tangradi was suspended three games by the American Hockey League on Tuesday for illegal contact with the head of Wild defenseman Christian Folin during a recent Iowa-Grand Rapids game. Folin missed Tuesday’s game at Charlotte. Assistant GM Brent Flahr said Folin was to be re-evaluated by doctors Tuesday, but regardless, the Wild will be extra cautious with him.
• Wild prospect Avery Peterson, who led Nebraska Omaha rookies with 11 goals last season, has left the school, citing personal reasons. He had one assist in 14 games during his sophomore season. The 2014 Minnesota Mr. Hockey, who scored 35 goals and 65 points in 25 games for Grand Rapids, hasn’t announced his future plans. He was drafted by the Wild in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.