ST. PAUL, Minn. A day after taking a scary hit from Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry, Minnesota Wild rookie forward Jason Zucker returned to the ice and said he feels "all right."
Zucker, 21, skated on his own shortly after Minnesota's optional practice Wednesday, an indication the speedy forward has likely avoided a concussion. During the second period of Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to Anaheim, an unsuspecting Zucker took a blindside hit from Perry, who's elbow connected with Zucker's head. Zucker laid on the ice for several minutes before being assisted off and missed the rest of the game.
Perry, the Ducks' second-leading scorer, could be facing a suspension for the hit. He reportedly has an over-the-phone hearing with the NHL on Wednesday to determine possible punishment.
"Yeah, I feel all right, just trying to get better," Zucker said after skating Wednesday. "You're always fortunate that you don't get hurt. Overall, I'm happy I'm standing here right now."
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said he was encouraged by Zucker's being able to skate only hours after the hit. Zucker would say only that he had an upper-body injury.
"Certainly, it's a very good sign," Yeo said of Zucker's presence at practice. "I liked the way that he's been playing, the last couple of games especially. He's upped some levels of his game, and obviously he's a threat to score every night. We're encouraged that he's feeling good today, that's for sure."
Zucker had passed the puck forward to defenseman Tom Gilbert in the Wild's defensive zone and didn't see Perry closing in on his left side. Perry's hit came late, clipping the side of Zucker and knocking him to the ice.
"I was committed to the hit," Perry said after Tuesday's game. "It's one of those things. I didn't change my path of direction. I was committed. I tried to let up. It's hard. It happens so fast. It's unfortunate."
Perry received five minutes for interference and a game misconduct. He said he had watched the video of the play a few times and said he didn't intentionally target Zucker's head.
"No, I don't go out there looking to hurt guys," Perry said. "That's not the way I am. It's not me as a person. It is what it is."
Yeo said he's gone back and watched the play again but didn't want to offer much more comment Wednesday.
"I've looked at it for sure, but I'd prefer not to comment on it a whole lot," Yeo said. "Again, you hate to see one of your players get hurt, so I'm going to look at it probably a little bit differently than other people will."
Zucker's status for Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche is still unknown. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has been scratched the past three games, will play Thursday if Zucker is unavailable.
"It's day-to-day," Zucker said. "I've got to figure it out. Tomorrow morning, I'll see how I am and talk to coach Yeo and talk to everybody and see how it goes from there."
Zucker, who made his NHL debut with six games late last season, has scored four goals with one assist in 11 games this season.
"He's been working very hard," Yeo said. "I feel like some areas of his game have started to improve, and they have to continue. We have to make sure with young players that consistency is there. But, one thing, he's got the speed, but you look at where his goals are coming from, he drives the net, goes to the net hard, and his speed is a factor because of that."
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