Bouchard's first skate with Wild features finesse of old

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2011 - 11:48 PM
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Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Pierre-Marc Bouchard's training camp debut was delayed a day because of a tight hamstring, but the slick playmaker was able to take part in Sunday's scrimmage.

Bouchard looked like the Bouchard of old, skating elusively through traffic, stickhandling by defenders and setting up play after play. Best yet, he showed immediate chemistry with potential linemates Guillaume Latendresse and Matt Cullen.

The line spent the majority of the scrimmage buzzing the offensive zone and will make its exhibition debut Tuesday in Edmonton.

"I was a little mad to miss the first day [Saturday]," Bouchard said. "I was waiting for that first day when I'm healthy for once and able to be part of training camp."

After missing all but one game in 2009-10, Bouchard missed training camp last September because of postconcussion syndrome and didn't return until Dec. 1. But even then, Bouchard used the year to rediscover his timing, game and fitness.

This summer, for the first time in basically three, Bouchard was able to get back to his normal offseason routine. He has come to camp looking and feeling great.

"The offseason was a lot more fun," said Bouchard, 27. "I was able to go through my workouts and live my normal life, and get married. ... For me, it's an important training camp this year."

If the Wild can find a productive second line behind a potential first line of Devin Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, it would be quite the coup.

Consider: Latendresse played 11 games last year but scored 25 goals in 2009-10. Despite having speed and skill, Cullen never found a consistent home on a line in his first year with the Wild. Proof perhaps was that he finished 13th on the team with 14 even-strength points. And Bouchard scored 12 goals and 38 points in 59 games but is the fourth-leading scorer in Wild history.

So there's potential, and Sunday at least they showed flashes despite being kept off the scoreboard.

"It's only the first day, so I don't want to get too excited, but it's a good start," Bouchard said. "I hope we can click together."

Coach Mike Yeo was intrigued by what he saw.

"I feel if they get a little bit more used to our system and even have a little bit more patience in the offensive zone, then more creativity, more offense will come from that," Yeo said. "But overall, I thought they had the puck on their stick a lot. Both them and Mikko's line, they haven't been getting on the board, but there's a lot of near misses. ...

"A week from now, I expect those near misses to be capitalized on."

Ice time for Hendry

Two solid scrimmages earned former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jordan Hendry a spot in Tuesday's exhibition lineup, Yeo said.

Hendry, who has played 129 NHL games, tore his left ACL Feb. 29 after being checked by Phoenix's Shane Doan. Unable to earn a contract this summer, Hendry is on a tryout trying to crack the Wild's nearly filled blue line.

If healthy, Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, Mike Lundin, Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner should earn jobs on a seven-, maybe eight-man blue line.

Hendry said his knee is 100 percent. "I'm welcoming the challenge," he added. "I think there's maybe some opportunity here on the back end. I want to make the staff make a hard decision on me."

Hendry said he's been made no promises by GM Chuck Fletcher regarding a contract.

"That's understandable, and I think I should come to camp and prove and show the team that my knee's good to go," Hendry said.

Yeo compared Hendry to simple, not-flashy Lundin, the former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman who signed with the Wild in July, saying both are effective when they go unnoticed.

"Good mobility, solid defender, smart player and a good first pass," Yeo said of Hendry.

Etc.

• Goalie Niklas Backstrom (knee) practiced for a second consecutive day Sunday but was held out of his second scrimmage. "We're just making sure we're not pushing him too hard right now," Yeo said.

• The rest of the lineup for Edmonton: Forwards: Darroll Powe-Kyle Brodziak-Cal Clutterbuck; Brett Bulmer-Warren Peters-Jed Ortmeyer, and Matt Kassian-David McIntyre-Jarod Palmer; defensemen: Clayton Stoner-Jared Spurgeon and Justin Falk-Nate Prosser. Tyler Cuma will travel, while Josh Harding and Matt Hackett will split time in goal.

• Sitting behind a number of fans wearing Boogaard No. 24 jerseys, Derek Boogaard's father, Len, and youngest brother, Aaron, took in Sunday's scrimmage. Boogaard died May 13. Aaron Boogaard, a former Wild draft pick, is friends with several Wild players and was a teammate of Jeff Taffe, who signed with the Wild in July, in Wilkes-Barre.

• Heatley scored the lone scrimmage goal Sunday on a penalty shot.

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