When the New York Rangers retire goalie Henrik Lundqvist's No. 30 during a ceremony before Friday night's game against the Wild at Madison Square Garden, there will be an interested party on the Minnesota bench.
Wild forward Mats Zuccarello spent nine years with the Rangers and quickly became friends with Lundqvist, who played for New York from 2005 through 2020 and won 459 games, sixth most in NHL history.
"It's a huge day for him and his family,'' said Zuccarello, who played for the Rangers from the 2010-11 season until he was traded to Dallas in the 2018-19 campaign. "Knowing him for so long, it's going to be cool for me to experience that and be a part of that.''
Lundqvist, a native of Sweden, and Zuccarello, a Norwegian, built a strong relationship even though their personalities are different. Zuccarello said he likes to joke around, while Lundqvist is more serious.
"Usually, when we had stuff to do together, he'd show up in a suit, and I'd have sweatpants,'' Zuccarello said. "That was just a fun part of it for us. He's Hank. He's lived with the pressure and the stardom that he has. … He's been an impressive athlete to watch.''
The same could be said about Zuccarello, who returns to New York playing at a level that mirrors his early days with the Rangers. Through 32 games, Zuccarello has 12 goals and 26 assists for 38 points, a pace of 1.19 points per game that would project to 97 points if he plays in the Wild's remaining 50 regular-season games. He had career highs of 26 goals and 61 points in 2015-16 and a career-best 44 assists the following season.
Zuccarello, who plays on a line with Kirill Kaprizov (17-32-49) and center Ryan Hartman (18-14-32),
had a goal and an assist in the Wild's 8-2 win over Montreal on Monday, extending his point streak to nine games in which he has four goals and 12 assists.
"I try to do the same thing every time,'' Zuccarello said, explaining his success. "Sometimes the puck goes in, sometimes it doesn't. … When the team's on a roll, everyone gets confidence, and the plays that you want to make, they're right there.''
Brodin expected to return
Defenseman Jonas Brodin, sidelined since Jan. 6 after taking a puck to his hand, returned to practice and had been medically cleared to play Friday against the Rangers. Coach Dean Evason indicated Brodin is likely to return but that a decision hasn't been made yet.
"We'll see, but he looked good,'' said Evason. "… His legs are going to be fine. It's just a matter of handling the puck, and he look good in that area, too.''
Brodin, who has three goals and 13 assists in 29 games this season, confirmed he had a broken bone. He'll practice again Thursday and expects to play.
"I think two practices will be good,'' Brodin said. "We'll see tomorrow how it feels.''
Goalie Cam Talbot, who missed the third period of the Wild's 8-2 victory over Montreal on Monday after aggravating a lower body injury, was a full participant in practice.
"He could have gone back in … but the way the game was going, we felt it wasn't necessary,'' Evason said. "He said he felt great yesterday, and today we had a lot of rush stuff and a lot of movement for him. He said, 'You really tested it today.' It was good.''
Sturm, Merrill in COVID-19 protocol
Two more Wild players, forward Nico Sturm and defenseman Jon Merrill, entered COVID-19 protocol after testing positive. "It's so random,'' Evason said. "… Hopefully, [Brodin] is back. If not, clearly we'll have to make a decision and get somebody here.''