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Zucker To Return Saturday As Wild Finishes Trip

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

BUFFALO -- Forward Jason Zucker practiced with the Minnesota Wild on Friday at First Niagara Center, and is set to play on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Zucker, who was activated from Injured Reserve earlier in the day, has missed the past six games with a concussion he sustained during the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks Feb. 21.

In the second period of that game, Zucker was checked in the open ice by Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival, who was subsequently assessed a five-minute major interference penalty, and a game misconduct.

Zucker exited the game, and did not return, and said he has gone through the necessary protocol and is feeling healthy.

"I don’t think there was a whole lot of change," Zucker said. "It was just making sure I got cleared in every way, and just made sure that my practices were getting better, and contact was getting better, and it felt good after all those skates and contact."

Between Zucker, and forward David Jones, who made his Wild debut on Thursday in a 2-1 Minnesota win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, interim Head Coach John Torchetti has options when it comes to filling out his lineup.

"It's big, but you have to be ready to play every night," Torchetti said. "It's a tough situation, sitting guys out, but usually it plays itself out. You have to come to work every night, or someone is going to come in there and take your job."

Torchetti did not reveal which forward will come out on Saturday. Ryan Carter was a healthy scratch in Toronto.

Torchetti also did not say if Zucker would slot back in on the second line, with forward Thomas Vanek and Mikael Granlund, where we he was playing prior to sustaining his concussion.

"We'll see what happens," Torchetti said. "I like the speed, and it brings another asset to our team. Getting (Jonas) Brodin back, getting Zach (Parise) back a couple of games ago, it just keeps improving our team speed, and will make us play a faster game."

Before the Wild played the Maple Leafs, Torchetti said he liked the way Minnesota is playing, and, " ... certain guys are playing well, and you have to work to stay in there, and other guys have to wait their turn to get in there. As we go along, we'll pick and choose who we feel fits in certain spots, and gets the opportunity."

Zucker said all he can do is come back in the lineup and play his game, and hope the rest sorts itself out.

"There are a lot of guys that could be playing in my position, and different positions when a couple of guys aren't in the lineup," Zucker said. "You have to make sure that you're contributing every shift."

Detailed Approach

When he was first promoted to the NHL, Torchetti was praised by defenseman Mike Reilly, who has been Torchetti's pupil in both Minnesota and Iowa, for his attention to detail.

In the midst of a three-game winning streak, Torchetti skated into the heart of the Wild's stretching circle during practice on Friday to provide a brief scouting report on the Sabres.

He also took the opportunity to tell his players that, a night prior against the Maple Leafs, they had 23 dump-in attempts that they didn’t retrieve.

"We were chasing the puck and chasing the game a little bit," Torchetti said. "We have to shore that up, and tighten it up, and better things will happen offensively, and we'll have better shooting chances."

It's something that hasn't gone unnoticed by the Wild's roster.

"If it doesn't (resonate), then that's a problem, right? " said Zucker, who played 77 games for Torchetti in the American Hockey League between Houston and Iowa. "For us, every guy is going to listen to that and say, 'Okay, let's make sure that our dumps are a little bit better.' Let's make sure that we're a little bit harder on those dumps, and we get those pucks deep, and away from the goalie, and build from there.

"He's been very good with that. He's made sure that all of us are staying on par with that stuff."

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