Wild fans have been yearning for weeks to see Jason Zucker in a Wild sweater after he tore up the American Hockey League this season. Well, Sunday at Xcel Energy Center, the sold-out crowd attending Minnesota's game against the Detroit Red Wings should get a chance to see two top Wild prospects for the price of one.
Not only did Zucker hop on a plane pointed toward the Twin Cities on Saturday, fellow 2010 second-round pick Johan Larsson came along for the ride.
Zucker, who got a six-game taste last season after his career ended with the University of Denver, will make his season debut. Larsson, the captain for Sweden's gold medal-winning world junior team last year, is slated to make his NHL debut.
Zucker, 21, who had two assists for the Wild last season, leads the Houston Aeros with 19 goals and 41 points in 47 games. He leads the AHL with 175 shots, ranks third with 10 power-play goals and played in the AHL All-Star Game. Larsson, 20, who some say has been Houston's best forward for some time, has scored 13 goals and 27 points in 50 games this season.
The sputtering Wild made the moves as it searches for more offense and energy. General Manager Chuck Fletcher said both forwards "earned the right to get a look."
It was unclear Saturday which forwards coach Mike Yeo would choose to remove in order to play Zucker and Larsson.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard is likely to be one of them. He missed Saturday's practice because he was "under the weather." He has scored two goals and had one assist in 13 games and has seen fourth-line duty recently as well as being a healthy scratch.
One other forward -- likely a fourth-line forward -- would still have to come out, providing Cal Clutterbuck can play. He missed much of Thursday's shootout loss to Colorado after being high-sticked next to his right eye. He tried to return, but when he didn't see a check coming in the second period, he realized he was having problems with peripheral vision.
But Clutterbuck practiced Saturday and expects to play.
With Bouchard absent Saturday, fourth-line right winger Torrey Mitchell filled in on a line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. Zucker would be a natural to slate into that spot, meaning Mitchell could be the odd man out.
Another possibility would be Zenon Konopka, who didn't play a shift after his penalty led to Milan Hejduk's power-play goal against Colorado. Larsson can play wing or center.
To create a roster spot to allow two forwards to be recalled instead of one, goalie Josh Harding was placed on injured reserve. He can come off any time he is ready to return.Falk out for Sunday
Defenseman Justin Falk, who had a rocky game against Colorado, missed practice because he too was sick and is likely to miss Sunday's game.
Nate Prosser would return. Prosser, who hasn't been on the ice for a goal against in seven games this season, has been scratched in eight of the past 10.
Yeo said Prosser has mostly been the victim of a numbers game.
"All I can do is what's in my control," Prosser said. "Whenever my number is called, I have to play my 'A' game, be edgy, make smart plays, make simple plays and get the team out of the zone."
In Saturday's practice, Yeo reunited Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon and paired Jonas Brodin and Prosser for three lefty-righty pairs.A special friendship
A feature on Jack Jablonski, the Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey player who was paralyzed Dec. 30, 2011, and the relationship he has with Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, who had surgery on torn knee ligaments the same day, will air at the top of NBC's "Hockey Day In America" coverage Sunday at 11 a.m.