Mats Zuccarello can’t stop producing since returning for Wild

Mats Zuccarello is back in a big way after an arm injury that hindered him last season.

Following his season debut Feb. 16, Zuccarello has three goals and nine points in five games. The last four of those have been Wild victories, which improved their record to 10-6-0 with a .625 points percentage, good for second in the West Division.

Zuccarello’s late start to the 2020-21 NHL season was due to off-season surgery on his right arm. It was originally injured in his first game with the Stars following the 2019 trade from the Rangers. He played a total of 15 regular season and playoff games in Dallas before signing a five-year deal with Minnesota that summer. 

Coming back to play didn’t stop that arm from bothering Zuccarello, however. He played 65 regular season games with the Wild in 2019-20, recording 37 points, his lowest since in seven seasons.

Before returning last week, Zuccarello skated on his own to prepare for the coming season. That work is paying off as he’s been impactful since his first game back in the lineup.

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“Sometimes, some games, the puck sits on your stick and you feel good,” Zuccarello said after Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Ducks. “Some games, you struggle. I think the first three games I’ve had the puck a little bit and felt good. Playing with good players, that helps, and like today, [Victor Rask] and Kirill [Kaprizov] are holding onto the puck, that makes it easier. Obviously, I worked out a really long time, and I feel like I’m in really good shape.”

The production continued as Zuccarello scored and assisted on another during Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Avalanche. His two points puts him at 401 for his NHL career, the most by a Norwegian-born player.

“Feels good when the puck finds you,” Zuccarello said. “That’s a good feeling. And it obviously feels good to help contribute to a win. I feel like the whole team is playing the same way, there’s chemistry on all the lines … that makes you feel good.”

It’s not just Zuccarello alone doing damage. His linemates are making it a dangerous trio every time they hop over the boards. Kaprizov, a Calder Trophy candidate, has a goal and five assists in his last three games. Rask has two goals and five points over that same stretch.

Wild head coach Dean Evason put the three together for the first time during that big win over Anaheim. At even strength, they’ve combined for five goals in 32:06 of ice time and have created 13 scoring chances, per Natural Stat Trick.

“They’ve got a lot of confidence,” Evason said Tuesday night. “But what we’re happy with is, we started them in the D-zone as well a couple of times and they did the right things to get out of our zone, using their skill up the ice to produce offense, but they’re also exiting our zone very well.”

The Wild came out of their two week COVID break slow, dropping a 4-0 defeat to the Kings. But now they’ve reeled off four road wins a row and head home for a back-to-back with LA. March doesn’t get any easier. Four of their first six games next month are against the division-leading Golden Knights.

It’s been a complete effort for the Wild during this streak. Kaapo Kahkonen has a .944 even strength save percentage in four games and the offense has scored 20 times. Everything is clicking right now for Minnesota.

“Everybody is playing,” said Evason. “So everybody feels a part of it and everybody is contributing. It’s awesome. We talked about it this morning, but you want to score goals. Players want to score goals, they want to have fun, and when you score goals, it feels real, real good.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.


    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).


    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.