When Wild winger Jason Zucker took a slash to his left leg in the waning seconds of Thursday’s loss in Boston, his injury became a microcosm of the team’s four-game road swing.
It struck a nerve.
The Wild never led in any of the four games — its only victory came on Zucker’s overtime goal in Carolina — and a flu bug bit several players on the trip, which ended in frustration.
But on Friday, coach Mike Yeo was looking ahead to a four-game homestand with positive news.
Zucker, who was slashed by Boston’s Matt Beleskey and helped from the ice, is “fine,” Yeo said. “Just hit a nerve. There’s a nerve back there and he had some numbness afterward, but he’s fine.”
The Wild should also get back Zach Parise, who has missed six games because of a sprained right knee ligament, within the week. Parise hasn’t returned to practice, but will skate in team warmups Saturday night before a game against Nashville at Xcel Energy Center. He will not play, Yeo said.
“It’s one thing to be cleared for a pregame skate and go out there where there’s no contact,” Yeo said. “It’s another thing to go out there for a practice where you have contact drills. Generally when a player is cleared for practice and cleared for contact, he’s a potential player for our lineup, so we’ll see where’s at.
“I know he’s going to push it and try to get back as soon as possible.”
The Wild penalty kill is 28th in the league (.745) after giving up six power-play goals in the past five games. Yeo was asked about those issues, and quipped, “I would like to see us take fewer penalties in the games.”
Said penalty killer Chris Porter: “We’re close. It’s one poor bounce or one bad clear, and I think we can eliminate a bit of that by staying out of the box a little more. As a unit of four, 5-on-4, we can’t force things, but I think when we’re playing on our toes, that’s when we are most effective. Being [put back] on our heels after they have scored a few, you play that way.”
Yeo thinks the homestand will be tonic for the Wild.
“I welcome having four in a row at home right now — it’s a good thing for our team,” Yeo said. “Not only do the longer road trips wear on you … but we’ve been trailing in every single one of those games, and when you’re trailing you’re pressing. You grind a lot more and it’s certainly a little more fatiguing.”
Down the road
Defenseman Gustav Olofsson, who made his NHL debut Thursday, and forward Michael Keranen, whose first NHL game was Tuesday in Pittsburgh, were sent back to Iowa with special memories.
“I told them, ‘Just enjoy it, because it only happens once,’ ” said Jordan Schroeder, who scored his first goal of the season in Boston. “‘Soak it all in, try not to think too much.’ I remember my first one I was so nervous, my first shift I couldn’t even breathe out there. I was so excited. After those first couple of shifts you settle down and play hockey. It’s something they’ll remember for the rest of [their] life.”
The last time the Wild played Nashville, Predators forward James Neal played the role of villain, injuring Parise with a check and taking a run at both Charlie Coyle and Nate Prosser. That should make Saturday’s game a little extra intense.
“It’s a rivalry,” Porter said. “They’re ahead of us in the standing, benchmark team. We all know what happened last game, but that aside, you want to go out and get two points.”
• Defenseman Jonas Brodin, who missed Thursday’s game because of the flu, practiced Friday. Among players getting a veteran’s day off were defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, and forwards Mikko Koivu and Ryan Carter.
• Winger Justin Fontaine, who has missed 10 games because of a knee sprain, has been skating, but was set back because of the flu.