After missing the first month of the season as he recovered from arm surgery, Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello has made an immediate imapct in his return to the lineup.
Which explains why coach Dean Evason has decided to move him up in the lineup.
Heading into Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center, the Wild had Zuccarello penciled in to play alongside Marcus Johansson and opposite Kirill Kaprizov. He earned that promotion after assisting on Kevin Fiala’s goal in Thursday’s win.
“He played the game with pace,” Evason said. “If he plays with the pace, and then combine that with his vision, he’s going to find people. If he gets that separation, which he did on Fiala’s goal, he pushed the D back and then pulled up, made the pass to (Matt Dumba). That’s the type of thing that we have seen from Zuccy.”
Asked about his play so far, Zuccarello wasn’t as glowing. He still feels like his timing is a little bit off. He expects that to come back with time.
As he continues to knock off the rust, it’s not hard to imagine Zuccarello creating scoring opportunities for Johansson and Kaprizov. His creativity is second to none and should pair nicely with both players.
“It’s the first time I’ve played with both of those guys,” Zuccarello said. “Whoever I play with, I try to get some chemistry, then help the team hopefully score some goals and get the win.”
Jonas Brodin was slated to make his return to the lineup in Saturday’s game. He was happy to be back after a recent bout with COVID-19.
“I felt better than I thought,” Brodin said. “I felt right away that I was ready to play.”
That was surprising to Brodin considering he felt sick as a dog after testing positive. He also lost his taste and smell and neither have completely returned yet.
“It was tough,” Brodin said. “I didn’t do much. I was in my condo for 10 days watching movies and playing video games. It’s tough to be out for so long. I’m finally back and I’m excited.”
It hasn’t been an ideal start to the season for starting goaltender Cam Talbot. He’s been dealt an unfortunate hand, suffering a lower-body injury last month, then testing positive for COVID shortly afterward.
Luckily for the Wild, backup goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen has been solid between the pipes.
“He competes his butt off,” Evason said. “We are running a drill and we have to be very aware not to blow the whistle too quick because he wants to compete on every single rebound and every single puck that’s around him. That’s something that his teammates clearly see in practice, and it’s translated into games. It gives the group some confidence for sure.”