CHICAGO (AP) The Minnesota Wild got a big lift Tuesday night when forward Jason Zucker returned from a broken collarbone.
Zucker missed 27 games after he was hurt in the first period of a 5-3 victory over Vancouver on Feb. 9. He had surgery and was expected to miss three months, but he returned in time to score a big goal in the third period of a 2-1 victory at Chicago that clinched a playoff spot for Minnesota.
''I just wanted to come out and play a simple game tonight,'' Zucker said. ''It was good to get back into it and get a few puck touches.''
Zucker has a career-high 19 goals and five assists in 49 games. The 23-year-old winger, drafted by Minnesota in the second round of the 2010 draft, had eight goals and four assists in 47 career games coming into the season.
''His speed and the season that he's been having, we're obviously very hopeful that he can come in and get up to speed in a real hurry,'' coach Mike Yeo said before the victory.
Forward Matt Cooke also could return soon. The 36-year-old Cooke, who has four goals and four assists in 27 games, had surgery on Feb. 6 to address a sports hernia.
''He's getting close,'' Yeo said.