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 was in the starting lineup for a big road game at Chicago.

“This is a hard time of the year to be playing, and it’s definitely a fun time of year, as well,” Zucker said after the morning skate. “Obviously been out a while, but I just want to get back in there and if it’s tonight or Thursday, it’s just keeping it simple and just do the little things.”

Zucker has a career-high 18 goals and five assists in 48 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.

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.

Blackhawks F Richards To Miss Final 3 Regular-Season Games

Blackhawks center Brad Richards will miss the final three games of the regular season with an upper-body injury.

It’s unclear when exactly Richards got hurt. He played 15 1/2 minutes in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to St. Louis.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday that Richards should be ready for the start of the playoffs. The veteran forward, who helped the New York Rangers reach the Stanley Cup final last year, has 12 goals and 25 assists in 76 games in his first season with Chicago.

The Blackhawks also were without defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Daniel Carcillo for Tuesday night’s game against Minnesota. Each player is day to day with an upper-body injury.

The 40-year-old Timonen was injured in the first period of Sunday’s 2-1 loss to St. Louis.

“He is feeling better today,” Quenneville said.

Quenneville said forward Kyle Baun will make his NHL debut against the Wild. The 22-year-old Baun had 14 goals and 15 assists this season at Colgate, and then agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago last month.

“We liked the way he’s practiced. We like what he brings,” Quenneville said.

Forward Patrick Kane also skated with the Blackhawks again on Tuesday morning. He had surgery on Feb. 25 to repair a broken left collarbone.

The original timeline for Kane’s return was three months, but it looks as if the dynamic winger might be able to return sooner than expected.

“He’s progressing real well,” Quenneville said. “I know that every day it seems like he’s getting a little stronger and his skating’s always been fine and handling the puck extremely well, so it’s good signs every day.”

Asked when Kane might be able to start taking contact, Quenneville responded: “We’ll see.”

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