ST. PAUL -- Less than 24 hours after being present for the birth of his first son, Wild forward Jason Zucker was on the ice with teammates ahead of Minnesota's game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Zucker, and his wife Carly, had a baby boy named Hendrix Scott Zucker on Friday afternoon.
"I think it was better than what I expected for sure. It was a surreal experience," Zucker said. "Carly is doing great. She was a trooper yesterday getting everything done. She's doing great. She was up walking around last night. It was a really good day."
The name Hendrix was one Zucker said both he and Carly thought was unique, but "also not one he's going to hate us for in 20 years." Scott is Zucker's dad's name.
In addition to a large contingent of Carly's family around this weekend, Zucker said it was special to have his daughter, Sophia, there as well.
"It was great to have Sophia there to be able to meet her little brother. It was a cool moment to see them together and have her hold him. It was a lot of fun," Zucker said. "She wanted to hold him immediately and sat down on the couch and held him. She was super excited. She went down to the gift shop and bough him a stuffed animal immediately. It was really cute."
Video: Zucker on His Baby Boy Hendrix
Father of four, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, said he hoped Zucker was able to get some rest last night. That was a common piece of advice Zucker said he received from all of the dads inside the team's dressing room.
"Actually I got about six hours last night. It was on and off a little bit," Zucker said. "It was more than I thought I was going to get so I was happy with that."
Zucker will be in the lineup tonight when Minnesota tries to carry over its success against the Penguins from last season. The Wild won both games against Pittsburgh last season, the first time it swept a regular season meeting against them since 2009-10.
"We were in their face. In Pittsburgh I think we had the most hits we'd had all year. When we were in here, just watching the tapes, we didn't give them a lot of room to maneuver and to skate," Boudreau said. "They were contested every time there was a loose puck, and we got lucky. I think the first few goals in the first period was very good for us."
After going 9-2-1 against the Penguins in its first 12 games against Pittsburgh in franchise history, the Wild has just a 3-6-0 mark in its last nine, including last season's sweep.
"It's always a great test. If it doesn't get your blood boiling a bit when you're playing the Stanley Cup champions and the best player in the world, we're in the wrong business," Boudreau said. "It's an exciting thought to be able to test them here, but if we're not ready it's a scary team. They can feed you your lunch pretty quick."
Boudreau said forward Nino Niederreiter is a game-time decision as he continues to recover from an ankle sprain. After a rigorous post-practice skate on Friday, Niederreiter was given a bit of a break on Saturday, meaning Tuesday is a more likely option for his return.
Here are the projected lineups:
Marcus Foligno - Eric Staal - Luke Kunin
Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Tyler Ennis - Joel Eriksson Ek - Chris Stewart
Daniel Winnik - Matt Cullen - Zack Mitchell
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Mike Reilly - Jonas Brodin
Kyle Quincey - Matt Dumba
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
Bryan Rust - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Carl Hagelin - Riley Sheahan - Patric Hornqvist
Tom Kuhnhackl - Greg McKegg - Ryan Reaves
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Chad Ruhwedel
Ian Cole - Zach Trotman