EDINA, Minn. — jason zucker feels better and is optimistic about this season with the Pittsburgh Penguins for several reasons.
The forward, who was limited to 41 games last season due to multiple injuries, is skating again and playing in the Da Beauty League, a 4-on-4 summer hockey league for players from the NHL, American Hockey League and NCAA Division I living in Minnesota.
“I’m excited,” the 30-year-old said after playing his first game on Wednesday. “It’s been really slow for me, but it’s been really good. It’s nice to skate again, and I’m just excited to be healthy and ready to have a healthy season this year. .”
Zucker played the first 30 games of 2021-22, but trouble began in January when he missed seven games with a lower-body injury. He returned on January 17 but did not feel well and underwent core muscle surgery on January 25. This kept him out until March 31, but in his first game back he suffered a lower-body injury that kept him out for three games. Then he suffered another lower-body injury on April 25 that kept him out of the final game of the regular season and the first two games of Pittsburgh’s seven-game loss to the New York Rangers in first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I’ve been chasing all year, and it’s unfortunate,” said Zucker, who had 17 points (nine goals, eight assists), his fewest in a season since 2013-14. “But everyone goes through this at some point in their career, and for me it happened last year. So I’m happy to settle that. It’s a contract year for me, so I’m get ready to play.”
Zucker is entering the final season of a five-year, $27.5 million contract (average annual value of $5.5 million) he signed with the Minnesota Wild on July 25, 2018. He was traded at the Penguins on February 10, 2020.
Video: BOS@PIT: Zucker beats Swayman with gloves
He will have help this season to show what he can do, as the Penguins have managed to keep much of their core intact this offseason.
That includes the three-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman Kris Letang and center Yevgeny Malkin.
Letang agreed to a six-year, $36.6 million ($6.1 million AAV) contract on July 7, and Malkin agreed to a four-year, $24.4 million ($6.1 million AAV) contract. AAV dollars) on July 12. Each could have become an unrestricted free agent if not signed on July 13.
“It’s really fun to reunite with these guys,” Zucker said. “They’re obviously amazing players and they’re the reason Pittsburgh has been so successful. It was nice to have them back. It would have been very strange and awkward not to have them in that locker room.”
penguins ahead Jake Guentzelanother Da Beauty League regular, said the Penguins wouldn’t feel the same without Letang and Malkin.
“We are so happy,” Guentzel said. “Two superstar players who mean so much to the city of Pittsburgh and the organization and it couldn’t be a better situation to have them both back to help this team.
“We’ve had good times together in the past. We all want to win. It hasn’t gone to plan for the past two years, but I think we have a good team and we can do well this year.”
Last season the Penguins (46-25-11) finished third in the Metropolitan Division, but their loss to the Rangers was the fourth consecutive season. Pittsburgh was eliminated in the first round or qualifying round of the playoffs. The Penguins last won a playoff series in 2018.
But with Letang and Malkin back, a healthy Zucker and the addition of defenders Jeff Petry, John Rutta and Ty Smiththere is still a lot of confidence.
‘We have another chance to go’, striker Teddy Bleuger said. “To have those guys again, the leaders of that team, and obviously bring in some new additions, I think that will be great for all of us.
“I think we have a real chance to make a deep run this year.”