Jason Zucker Looks Ready To Roll Into The Postseason


Jason Zucker made his return from being sidelined with a broken clavicle last night, and wasted no time making his presence felt. The 5’11” winger scored what turned into the game-winning goal 13:14 into the third.

Zucker was buzzing all game on the second line with Mikko Koivu and Chris Stewart. But it wasn’t until the third period that he really seemed to find his stride.

One play, the speedster who hadn’t played since February 9, was going wide left on Brent Seabrook, but was knocked off the puck by the 6’3″ Chicago defenseman and crashed hard into the wall. It was a nerve-wracking moment for a guy coming off a broken collarbone. An injury that was initially expected to sideline him for a month longer. But two shifts later, he recorded his nineteenth of the season.

Now that the Wild have clinched their third consecutive playoff berth, it is time to see how Zucker will fit into the lineup for the two games remaining and into the postseason.

If Zucker continues to mesh with Koivu and Stewart, and generate offense, you could very well see him stay on that second line. This drastically improves the scoring on the third and fourth lines. Nino Niederreiter played alongside Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle on the third last night, while Justin Fontaine slide back onto the fourth line (alongside Kyle Brodziak and Jordan Schroeder).

Matt Cooke looks like he’ll also be returning to game form soon, so the Wild will have tons of flexibility to put out a lineup that can play a certain way. It could be one filled with speedsters, such as Zucker, Erik Haula, and Schroeder; or it have be a grittier look, with Ryan Carter (who was a healthy scratch last night) and Cooke figuring more heavily into the lineup.

With 19 goals in 49 games, Zucker will definitely be in any lineup head coach Mike Yeo drafts. But he may wind up hopping around between the second and third lines.

Zucker didn’t see time on the power play or penalty kill last night. But there was only one power play opportunity for each team, so he might have figured into the penalty kill at some point.

On the season, Zucker has averaged just over a minute of short-handed time on ice per game, and slightly less power play time (0:52 entering last night’s tilt). His role on the man advantage could go either way. The power play has been poor all year for Minnesota, and was 28th in the league going into last night’s game. So maybe Zucker gets a larger role when the Wild are up a man.

But at the same time, Minnesota has added Stewart to the mix, they have Coyle playing strong hockey, and the emergence of Matt Dumba has given them lots of power play options from the point (leaving less room for Jason Pominville at the blue line, which forces him up front, taking away a potential power play spot).

And, now that Minnesota has clinched a playoff spot, we’d like to hear your expectations for how deep they’ll go (even though it may be a little early, and we don’t even have the matchups set yet). But let’s hear what you have to say in the poll.