Greetings. Youngblood here with Russo getting the day off.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard talked with us this morning about his return to action after 14 months dealing with post-concussion syndrome. There wasn't a lot of ground-breaking stuff, but you could tell listening to him that he was excited about this.
Coach Todd Richards reiterated that PMB would start with the fourth line. Richards will monitor his play, and perhaps move him up as the game goes on. PMB said he would likely play about 10 minutes; Richards said there was no minute limit going in. He might also get some time on the power play as early as tonight.
Here are some excerpts from PMB today:
He's played over the scenario time and time again over the last 14 months. But tonight it will happen. Bouchard will walk the tunnel from the Wild dressing room to the Xcel Energy Ice to play in his first game.
'I think I'll be nervous," he said. "I think it's going to be like my first NHL game all over again. It's going to be a great feeling. ... I can't wait to get out there."
That said, there will also be nerves. It's been a long time since he's played. "I've been waiting for a long time for this first game. It's been a long and tough process. But this is it, it's the first game back and I'm a little excited, a little bit nervous. But it would be a great feeling to put the skates on the ice tonight."
Bouchard said he's been feeling very good, symptom-free, for the last 10 days or two weeks. A few days ago he, his doctor and Wild management held a conference call in which Bouchard was given the green light.
And now there are so many issues to get through. Asked if he was almost hoping to get that first hit out of the way early, he smiled. "A little bit," he said. "Not a big one, though."
Richards has long anticipated what Bouchards return could mean for his team. Bouchard is a top-six talent, that's for sure. In practices Richards has seen Bouchard ignite scoring opportunities with that first past out of the zone during defensive drills and has been looking forward to getting that skill on the ice.
But, for Bouchard, there is that mixture of anticipation and nerves.
"When I get back out on the ice, that first shift, I'll be nervous," he said. "But I'll try to play my game. I'll go into the corners, I'll go in front of the net. I'll try to play my game. That's the best way I should get into it."
Once he's done all that, the 14-month gap between NHL games will start to fade, if only a little.
"I tried to stay positive," he said. "I think the organization, the whole staff, the general manager, the coaches, have been really supportive. There wasn't any pressure (to come back early). they wanted me to get back healthy. That was a big thing for me. I had my family, my fiance and friends around me to keep me in good spirits. Now that day has come and I don't want to think about it any more."
That's about it for now. Get back to you after the game.