Great news. If all continues to stay on track, Pierre-Marc Bouchard won't be behind me in the press box this season critiquing my typing skills.
I talked to the upbeat Wild playmaker this afternoon and Bouchard continues to progress. He's been skating at least twice a week for three weeks now, and today was taking part in yet another skate with some of the Montreal NHLers. Typically, he'll do the full 30-45 minutes of drills and at least 15 minutes of the scrimmage. He wears a heart monitor to make certain he doesn't go above 150-160 beats per minute.
So while he's definitely pushing himself, he's trying to pace himself, too. He's yet to experience contact and that'll probably wait until training camp.
Bouchard said he's still a little rusty, but he's pleased with how quickly he's rediscovered his skill level.
Now, Bouchard does say he still experiences periodic symptoms, specifically some fatigue and pressure in the head. But he'll sit down with the Wild once he gets to town around Labor Day to discuss a direction going forward. He said it might be something he has to just deal with, and he said the first real test will be when he's hit.
He said his goal is to be on the ice by the time training camp begins. The first on-ice session is Sept. 18 -- or three weeks from Saturday.
I also talked to coach Todd Richards today, who's very excited about the potential return of Bouchard. Remember, Bouchard, who averaged 56 points a season the four years prior to last year, so Richards calls it like a July 1 free-agent addition.
Richards feels very confident that the Wild's a playoff team, especially with the upgrade at center this summer, the addition of Bouchard and just the total work ethic and defensive improvement by adding guys like Matt Cullen, John Madden, Eric Nystrom and Brad Staubitz.
"It's been a long offseason," said Richards. "The moves that we've made, we're excited about. We felt we needed to get stronger up the middle, and we did that. The guys we signed -- Staubitz and Nystrom, they make our team a lot better, and obviously Bouchard. So that's even more reason to be excited. We feel like we're a playoff team, and we're looking forward to Sept. 17."
Also, Richards will be at Winter Park on Tuesday to watch the way the Vikings coaching staff does things. Later in the week, he may also get together with Don Lucia and the Gophers' men's hockey staff.
"The more people you talk to in the coaching world only makes myself and my staff better. So it's a chance to experience a couple different things."
The Bouchard article will appear in Saturday's paper.