How the Wild looks in the pregame skate Sunday afternoon will be especially telling.
That’s because winger Jason Zucker, who’s missed the last 10 games with a fractured right fibula, is considered a game-time decision against the Canucks.
“I want to get back and play as quick as I can,” Zucker said.
Zucker participated in his first practice with the Wild since he was injured Dec.15 on Saturday, resuming his post on the team’s top line next to center Eric Staal and winger Mats Zuccarello. After the session, Zucker said he hadn’t been cleared to play. Coach Bruce Boudreau figured Zucker would be ready to return as long as nothing popped up.
Initially, Zucker was expected to be sidelined for approximately four-to-six weeks. He had surgery on Dec.20, barely three weeks ago.
“I’m not shocked,” Boudreau said. “Guys in the past have come back early.”
Defenseman Greg Pateryn could also return to the lineup.
He’s been cleared to play after missing the entire season following core muscle surgery.
“It’s exciting,” Pateryn said. “It’s been a good week. It’s always good to come back off [injured reserve] and just feel confident and everything, feel good with practice. It’s been exciting.”
During Saturday’s skate, Pateryn worked with Carson Soucy. If that pairing stays intact, Brad Hunt could be the odd man out on the blue line.
“Don’t think. Just go play,” Pateryn said about his approach to getting back in game mode. “I know what I need to do and any time you’re out there thinking, you’re hesitating. I’ve been telling myself when I get back in, ‘Just go play. Don’t think.’”
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mats Zuccarello
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Kevin Fiala
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Jordan Greenway-Ryan Donato-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Carson Soucy-Greg Pateryn
11-4-4: Home record for the Wild.
2-1: Showing by the Wild vs. the Canucks last season.
6: Points for winger Mats Zuccarello over his last 10 games.
43: Shots for the Wild Thursday in Calgary, the second-most in a game this season.
6: Points for defenseman Ryan Suter in his past six outings.
About the Canucks:
This is the second half of a back-to-back for the Canucks, who were in Buffalo on Saturday and left with a 6-3 win. That snapped a two-game slide for Vancouver on the heels of seven straight wins. Amid these recent results, the Canucks are in the thick of the Western Conference’s playoff race with 52 points. Center Elias Pettersson has a team-high 47 points to go along with 20 goals – also tops on the Canucks. Burnsville’s Brock Boeser has 16 goals and 43 points.