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Zucker a game-time decision for Wild on Sunday

Forward has missed the past 10 games following surgery on a leg injury sustained last month

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- When Jason Zucker was pegged with a slap shot dump-in by Chicago's Brent Seabrook on Dec. 15, little did he know he'd miss the better part of the next month of action.

Zucker needed help getting off the United Center ice and briefly went down the tunnel, but returned shortly thereafter and finished the final two periods of action. 

But the lingering pain and testing the following day in his hometown of Las Vegas revealed a fractured right fibula. Surgery less than a week later would sideline him for the next four to six weeks. 

But once again, Zucker has proven to be a quick healer.

The Wild left winger was back at practice on Saturday afternoon at TRIA Rink and is officially a game-time decision for the team's game Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center against the Vancouver Canucks. 

"It was a good step today being out there with the team," Zucker said. "I haven't been able to do that, obviously, so that was great. It felt good. It was good to get some battling in a little bit, get some game-like drills. It was good."

The team was hoping Zucker would initially re-join practice on Friday, but a late return from Calgary forced the Wild to cancel a scheduled practice and push Zucker's return to practice an additional day. 

He's been skating on his own for several days with skating coach Andy Ness, but Saturday's session allowed Zucker to test things in a more traditional, game-like setting. 

Video: Zucker on injury recovery

"It's been three weeks but 25 days since the injury. I'm not shocked," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "Guys in the past have come back early. In today's game it doesn't happen as much, but he wants to play. He's a tough kid and hopefully he's ready to play tomorrow."

Minnesota has missed Zucker's presence in the lineup, going 4-5-1 in the 10 games since he left the lineup. At the time of the injury, the Wild was one of the hottest teams in the League.

Zucker has 12 goals (third on the team) and 24 points in 34 games played and his four power-play goals are one behind team leaders Zach Parise and Eric Staal. 

"It's to be seen but I think when he was here our power play was at 20 percent or above and it's sort of taken a little bit of a nose dive since then," Boudreau said. 

As of the end of practice, Zucker had not been cleared to play, but those conversations were likely to take place with trainers and doctors either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning before the start of the game. 

Video: Rink Report: Wild vs Canucks

"I was happy with it, for sure. A game is obviously very different than what we did out there today, but I thought it was a good step forward," Zucker said. "Asking trainers that and asking players that is a very different story. For me, I want to get back and play as quick as I can."

Zucker and defenseman Greg Pateryn, who hasn't played at all this season (sports hernia), are considered game-time decisions for the contest on Sunday. Pateryn has been cleared for play and participated in pre-game skate on Thursday night in Calgary.

Whether he plays will depend on exactly what Boudreau wants to do with his lineup. With Nick Seeler still with the Iowa Wild on a conditioning stint, Minnesota has seven defensemen available to play. 

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk also participated in practice after missing the team's trip to Calgary to be with his wife, Jenn, who had a medical procedure done this week. 

Boudreau wouldn't reveal his starter in goal on Sunday but wanted to provide a stiff test in practice for his veteran netminder. 

"That's why we played that game at the end," Boudreau said. "I wanted him to be up and down and see how he felt."

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