Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild's Pierre-Marc Bouchard "symptom-free;" Bill Daly: NHLPA dissolving won't "expedite things"

Posted by: Michael Russo under Gophers, Wild off-season news Updated: December 17, 2012 - 6:46 PM

UPDATED WITH STEVE FEHR QUOTE

Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who sustained a season-ending concussion in Vancouver on Jan. 4, has been skating daily lately and says he has been "pretty much symptom free" the last few weeks.

I talked with Bouchard this morning. In the last year of a five-year deal, Bouchard plans to make a comeback with the Wild assuming the lockout ends in the near future.

Not technically locked out by the Wild because he wasn't cleared to play as of Oct. 11, Bouchard recently spent a week practicing with the Houston Aeros and skates all the time with assistant coaches Darryl Sydor and Darby Hendrickson and strength and conditioning coach Kirk Olson down at Xcel Energy Center. Lately, he has experienced more and more pushing and bumping from them

Unlike his teammates, he has full use of the Wild facilities.

This morning, Bouchard skated down at the University of Minnesota with the locked-out Wild and Minnesota-based players.

He will see Wild doctors later this week.

Asked if he could immediately partake in training camp and return to the lineup if the lockout ends, Bouchard said, "That's a good question. I rather speak to the doctor first, talk to him and see what he says. The last few weeks I've been pretty good, so I’m optimistic about it."

Bouchard, 28, has played the second-most games in Wild history (522), has scored the fourth-most goals (98), has the second-most assists (229) and the third-most points (327). This is all despite missing every game but one in 2009-10 because of a concussion and the first two months of the 2010-11 season. He was limited to 25 games last year.

Bouchard was drafted eighth overall in 2002.

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I wrote a story for Tuesday's paper on the latest game of chicken between the NHL and the maybe soon-to-be dissolved NHL Players' Association.

Currently, the players are voting on whether or not to authorize its board to file a disclaimer of interest if it so chooses, which would essentially disband the union and allow the players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL. Players have been pretty much been told by the union not to speak publicly, especially since a lot of their words previously on the subject are being used against them by the league, which has filed a complaint with federal court in New York.

But I have talked to a handful of players and all believe it's going to go through and the union will indeed file this disclaimer of interest.

Then we're in a world of bigtime uncertainty, which you can read about Tuesday. I talked with Eric Macramalla, a must-follow on Twitter at @ericonsportslaw. He's the TSN legal analyst and partner in the Ottawa law firm, Gowlings, and he makes sense of the whole thing.

I did get an email from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who says, "Things remain status quo with the Union. There was no contact over the weekend, and there are no new meetings planned. We obviously would prefer that the Players return to the bargaining table at the earliest possible date to see if there is a deal to be done. Ultimately, a deal will have to be agreed to, regardless of the forum. I suppose it is ultimately up to them to choose what forum that will be, but the Union pretending its not a Union anymore certainly isn't going to expedite things."

From Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's Special Counsel: “There is no need for the players to “return” to the table because the players have never left. It was the owners who indicated last Thursday that they had nothing more to say right now. We are ready to bargain whenever they are.”

Neither side agrees who should make the next move. Scary times folks.

The hope obviously is like the NBA, the players will file a disclaimer of interest and the lockout will soon be settled.

I'm not too sure in this case. Like I said, please check out Tuesday's article and I will be "Hockey This Morning" Tuesday at 8:45 CT on Sirius/XM.

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The world junior championships go from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. All U.S. games can be seen on NHL Network and NHL.com, plus 12 other games. The schedule can be found on NHL.com or USAhockey.com.

By the way, the idle Gophers men's hockey team enters the holiday break ranked fourth in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. The Gophers are tied for fifth in the WCHA -- three points behind St. Cloud State with two games in hand.

The Huskies are 16th in the uscho.com poll, which can be found here.

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By the way, a good follow on Twitter is Blaine's Matt Hendricks of the Washington Capitals. He's currently on the USO Tour in Afghanistan and  has been tweeting some awesome updates and pictures at @matthendy26.

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