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Wild without Zucker as they chase Jets in Central

by Dan Myers

JETS (18-10-7) at WILD (16-13-3)


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A mysterious stomach virus has been running through the Minnesota Wild dressing room for the past couple of weeks.

Unfortunately for the Wild, the three-day holiday break did not rid the room of the illness as forward Jason Zucker will be out Saturday as the Wild host the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center.

Zucker has had a breakout season in his first full season with Minnesota, scoring 12 goals in 32 games, third-most on the team. He is one of six players to have skated in every game.

After losing five players to the mumps at various points earlier this season, this stomach virus has also wreaked havoc, hitting each goaltender, forwards Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, and defenseman Jared Spurgeon among others.

"It's his turn," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

Minnesota enters the game Saturday trailing Winnipeg by eight points in the Central Division standings, with a rematch on the horizon Monday at MTS Centre. The Jets currently own the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"This is a team that occupies a spot we want to get," Yeo said. "This is a team that, we want them to know that we're coming for them. We look forward to this challenge tonight."

With the holiday break preventing travel the day before the game, the Jets left Winnipeg early Saturday morning and arrived at the arena around 10 a.m. CT.

"It's a little weird, we got up pretty early this morning," Jets forward Mathieu Perreault said. "But we'll have a lunch, then we'll have our nap, so we should be able to get into the routine."

Jets coach Paul Maurice ran a fast, up-tempo morning skate to try and get his team going. Maurice also announced Michael Hutchinson as his goaltender for Saturday.

"Probably made that decision a couple of weeks ago," Maurice said. "Just based on the calendar, you put your guy in who is more used to this situation, either sitting time or coming in off of a non-practice day. He started the season in that backup role, so he's more used to it."

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik

Evander Kane - Adam Lowry - Matt Halischuk

Chris Thorburn - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien

Jay Harrison - Grant Clitsome

Adam Pardy - Paul Postma

Michael Hutchinson

Ondrej Pavelec

Scratched: TJ Galiardi, Julien Brouillette

Injured: Jacob Trouba (lower body), Tobias Enstrom (lower body), Zach Bogosian (lower body), Mark Stuart (lower body)


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Thomas Vanek

Ryan Carter - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Justin Falk - Stu Bickel

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Nate Prosser, Christian Folin

Injured: Jason Zucker (illness), Keith Ballard (head/face)

Status report: Maurice said the rotation in goal between Hutchinson and Pavelec will continue. The morning skate Saturday and a practice Sunday would provide Pavelec chance to get back into a typical routine for him ahead of the game Monday in Winnipeg. … Kuemper hasn't won since a 2-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 3.

Who's hot: Perreault scored two goals Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks and has at least a point in eight straight games, the longest active streak in the NHL. … Scandella has a goal in each of the past two games and in three of the past four.

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