Wild still ‘very optimistic’ Mats Zuccarello will be ready for Game 1
Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba returned to the Wild lineup against the rival Colorado Avalanche.
Mats Zuccarello missed the regular season finale against the rival Colorado Avalanche on Friday night at Xcel Energy Center as he continues to nurse a lower-body injury. He hasn’t played since the Wild earned a 6-3 win over the Seattle Kraken on April 22.
That said, it appears Zuccarello will still be available for the start of the NHL playoffs next week. Asked about Zuccarello’s status for the series opener against the St. Louis Blues, coach Dean Evason replied, “We’re still very optimistic that he’ll play in Game 1.”
Nonetheless, the Wild are clearly starting to make contingency plans just in case. They elevated Tyson Jost in the lineup for the regular season finale, playing him alongside Ryan Hartman and opposite Kirill Kaprizov. That would presumable be the top line if Zuccarello is not ready to go.
The good news regarding Zuccarello is his prolonged absence doesn’t appear to be due to a setback.
“He’s skated lightly,” Evason said. “Nothing has gotten worse because of anything. It’s just not healed to the point where we feel comfortable to put him in a game situation.”
While the Wild considered resting players down the stretch, the fact that they wanted home-ice advantage in the first round ultimately made their decision for them.
Thus, the Wild fielded a full lineup in the regular season finale, while the Avalanche rested top players like star center Nathan MacKinnon, star defenseman Cale Makar and starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
“We put projections together of games that we thought maybe some people could come out of our lineup,” Evason said. “We’ve debated it for sure. There’s a lot of different variable for why we’ve done what we’ve done. And one of them is to continue to play like the Minnesota Wild play and have the people in the lineup that we think will start in the playoffs.”
Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba returned to the Wild lineup for the game against the Avalanche. That provided the blue line with a major boost as Jake Middleton played alongside Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin played alongside Dumba and Jon Merrill played alongside Dmitry Kulikov.
It’s pretty much a guarantee that’s the defensive pairings the Wild use in Game 1 against the Blues next week.