Zucker injured in first game at X since 2020 trade to Penguins

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Jason Zucker returning from a lengthy injury absence wasn't all that was significant about him suiting up Thursday for the Penguins.

The game was also the forward's first at Xcel Energy Center since the Wild traded him to Pittsburgh two years ago.

"It's exciting to be back," Zucker said ahead of puck drop. "It seems crazy that it's been this long. It's always good to be back in this building. A lot of good memories."

Zucker was moved on Feb. 10, 2020, for forward Alex Galchenyuk, defenseman Calen Addison and a first-round draft pick that the Wild used last year to select defenseman Carson Lambos.

His departure was actually the first in a series of changes by General Manager Bill Guerin that dissolved the previous core and ultimately replaced it with the current roster. After Zucker left, Eric Staal and Devan Dubnyk were also eventually traded, Mikko Koivu wasn't re-signed and the Wild bought out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

"Obviously, Billy Guerin came in and had a different vision and he's put that to work pretty quickly," said Zucker, who underwent surgery on a core muscle injury in January and was playing Thursday for the first time since Jan. 17. "It's good to see them having success. I'm rooting for all those guys and everybody that I played with. Obviously, there aren't too many of them left. But I'm rooting for all of them, and I hope nothing but success for all those guys."

A fan favorite during his 456 games with the Wild after the team drafted him in the second round 59th overall in 2010, Zucker racked up 132 goals and 111 assists for 243 points and he still ranks in the franchise's top five in goals and game-winning goals (22).

He also made an impact off the ice, launching the Give16 fundraising campaign for the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

"That definitely stands out the most," said Zucker, who won the 2019 King Clancy Trophy that recognizes leadership and community involvement. "Then the hockey side, I'm very grateful for this organization allowing me to get started in the league. They did a lot of great things for me, from Craig Leipold to [former GM] Chuck Fletcher to Billy Guerin in the short time we were together. It was a pleasure to be here."

Zucker, however, had to be helped off the ice in the second period after crashing awkwardly into the boards after getting bumped by the Wild's Kevin Fiala.

Hoping Jason Zucker is ok after a nudge from Fiala put him off balance at the boards pic.twitter.com/baocsuRFF1

— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) April 1, 2022 Looking ahead

Next up for the Wild is a four-game road trip with stops in Carolina, Washington, Nashville and St. Louis.

Those last two games could help determine seeding for the playoffs and whether the Wild snags home-ice advantage in the first round.

The top two teams in the Central Division will earn that opportunity and currently the Wild is in second place, but the Blues and Predators aren't too far behind. The Avalanche is leading the division with the best record in the NHL.

"It's going to be huge for points going forward and the standings," winger Jordan Greenway said. "I don't look into it much, but I have been lately. It's a close race here, and we gotta do everything to stay definitely in the spot where we are but try to do everything to get to Colorado."

Etc.

· Winger Marcus Foligno left the game Tuesday after colliding with the Flyers' Owen Tippett late in the third period, but Foligno was back in action against the Penguins.