In what coach Mike Yeo called a “really good sign,” Wild rookie Jason Zucker took the ice in a track suit after the team’s optional practice Wednesday.
He looked better than originally expected after Tuesday night when he was down on the ice for several minutes following a vicious blow to the head from Anaheim’s Corey Perry. The Ducks star was suspended four games and lost more than $115,000 in salary for what Rob Blake, an NHL executive and former defenseman, called a reckless, “late, illegal check.”
Zucker sustained an upper-body injury. Wednesday he said, “I feel alright. Just trying to get better. … Overall, I’m happy that I’m standing here right now.”
Asked if Zucker has a concussion, Yeo said, “I don’t think he’d be allowed to be on the ice if that was the case.”
While it seems doubtful that Zucker would play Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche, Zucker said he would see how he’s feeling in the morning and then discuss it with Yeo and the Wild’s medical staff.
If Zucker is out, Yeo said Pierre-Marc Bouchard will play. Bouchard, scratched in three consecutive games, has two goals and three assists in 20 games this season. “He’s a player that we have still a lot of faith in what he can do and what he can add to our team,” Yeo said. “It’s not the ideal situation that he finds himself in right now. The next time he comes in he’ll get a very fair chance.”
Despite bemoaning the lack of practice on the power play after it failed dramatically in the Wild’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim, Yeo opted to hold an optional practice Wednesday.
Only nine skaters and goalies Darcy Kuemper and Matt Hackett took the ice in a practice session led by assistant coach Darby Hendrickson and goalie coach Bob Mason. Kuemper (groin), who is starting to feel better, later was reassigned to Houston of the AHL.
Asked why not a regular practice, Yeo said, “Believe me, I would love to practice. I love practicing, I love the feeling going into games that you’ve covered all the things that you need to cover. But when you talk to the guys and even when you watch the third period, you can tell that we didn’t have the energy that we needed. Coming off three games in four days with travel, coming off very emotional, very hard games, we needed this today.”