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“He could play,” Quenneville said.

And if not?

“He might not,” the coach said, grinning slightly.

Yes, postseason gamesmanship was on full display. Wild coach Mike Yeo, asked if fourth line forward Mike Rupp was hurt, coyly declined to answer whether his absence from practice was for rest or due to injury. One reporter reminded the coach that Rupp played only four shifts, totaling 2:37 of ice time, in Game 3.

“They were hard shifts,” Yeo said, deadpanning.

The veteran forward the Wild acquired for more punch for the playoffs, Jason Pominville, hasn’t participated in two weeks since taking an elbow to the chin in a game against Los Angeles. Pominville was back at practice Monday, but Yeo left his status vague too.

The 21-year-old Zucker, whose uneven, undisciplined play prompted the Wild to keep him at their AHL affiliate much of the year, was recalled from Houston right before the final regular season game. Aside from 36-year-old center Matt Cullen, Zucker is one of the only forwards the Wild have with the speed to match the Blackhawks. He showed that in Game 1 when his overtime shot hit the crossbar, an inch that’s the difference now in the lead of this series.

But after his blind, bad-angle shot got past goalie Corey Crawford in Game 3, Zucker has been more interested in talking about the importance of physical play than his scoring touch or skating ability.

“Obviously that’s a big part of our game, so we had to come out strong. We have a lot of guys that hit all night and every night, so we had to keep that going,” Zucker said.

The Blackhawks lamented their lack of puck possession in Game 3, and the Wild were quick to point out that their extra effort along the boards and in the corners was the key to them controlling the game. They realized, too, that they’re only one-fourth of the way toward finishing an upset of the Stanley Cup favorite Blackhawks. This, after all, is a best of seven.

“Guys are going about their business. That’s the nature of the playoffs. You have to put that behind you pretty quick,” Cullen said. “You can’t be in here running around like an idiot because you won a game. We won one game.”


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