On October 3, 2009, Todd Richards finalized his roster before his first game as an NHL head coach. He probably didn’t think about how nice a luxury it was to put Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s name on his lineup card. After filling out lineup cards 102 times since then, Richards will appreciate that luxury a little more tonight when Bouchard returns to the lineup for the first time since that day after dealing with concussion symptoms.
For most of this season, Bouchard has been practicing with his teammates and progressing. But he continued to feel pressure in his head and was advised to hold off on making his return until he was symptom free. Meanwhile, the Wild stayed in contention for a playoff spot and the division lead by winning tight games with timely goals and rock solid goaltending. But if the Wild is going to snap a string of four losses in five games, it’s going to need more offense and what better way to achieve that than by adding the fourth leading scorer in franchise history with 267 points?
Bouchard, who said he has felt symptom free “for about seven to 10 days.” That was good enough to get him clearance to return tonight.
College students, take it from people who’ve been there, use this time wisely. Finals don’t start for a couple more weeks, so you need to get your fun in now, as in tonight. Stay out late one night this week and utilize the Wells Fargo College Night ticket, which gets you in the door for just $30.
For those of you whose college years have passed you by, you can still enjoy a night out and a discounted ticket by going with the Bud Light Wild Night Out pack.
Wild vs. Coyotes will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV Channel 45 at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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For the first time in a long time, you’ll get to watch Bouchard, but you’ll get to take homeAndrew Brunette. In the latest installment of the Wild’s Year Ten All-Time Team Bobblehead series, a Brunette figurine will be given to the first 5,000 fans tonight. The only things the Bruno Bobblehead won’t have is his infectious laugh and wit.
People may say that in order for the Wild to contend, it needs a superstar scorer like a Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos. But Phoenix proved last year that net filler isn’t necessary if a team gets great goaltending and plays smart hockey.
The Yotes are doing the same thing this year, getting enough small contributions from everybody while still relying on the goaltending of last year’s Vezina Trophy finalist, Ilya Bryzgalov. While his numbers aren’t as staggering as last season, “Bryz” has still provided Phoenix with points in the standings, posting a record of 10-4-5. Last year, Bryzgalov tormented the Wild, winning all four of his starts, including one shutout.
The Wild was held off the scoreboard for the first time on Monday, but it wasn’t for lack of chances, especially by Marek Zidlicky. When he wasn’t dancing with the puck on his stick, Zid seemed to be staring at the Pengrowth Saddledome ceiling in disbelief after getting robbed by Miikka Kiprusoff. Zidlicky still has four points (1-3=4) in his last three games and looks to have shaken off his lower-body injury.
We may only see him on the ice for 10 minutes or less, but game action is the last step for Bouchard to take. Bouchard is expected to start on the fourth line with Eric Nystrom and Brad Staubitz, but he could see some time on the power play, and he may move up to more offensive lines depending on how he’s feeling.
The once boiling Wild power play has cooled to a simmer recently with just one goal in the last 19 attempts. Enter Bouchard, who will join one of the power play units and do his work from the half wall.
It will feel good for Richards to put Bouchard’s name on a lineup card, but it also feels good to put his name on a Wild.com lineup:
"He hasn’t played hockey in a long time. The game, at least at first, will be fast. His timing will probably be off a little bit, but I think that’s to be expected. I’m pretty sure he’ll come in and do a good job.”
-- Todd Richards on what he expects in Bouchard’s first game in over a year.
C Eric Belanger spent three seasons in a Wild uniform, playing 214 games.
In games in which Bouchard scores a goal, the Wild owns a 50-14-4 record. When he puts up more than one point, Minnesota is 46-7-1.