Smiling Bouchard back in lineup

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2011 - 11:57 PM

VANCOUVER - Pierre-Marc Bouchard was the second player off the ice for the Wild at Monday's morning skate. When asked if that was good or bad, Bouchard said, "I'm smiling, right?"

After missing two games because of a broken nose, Bouchard returned Monday night against the Canucks. For a guy with a history of concussions, Bouchard needed to first feel confident he didn't sustain another when his face was smashed into a ledge last week in Winnipeg.

Bouchard felt comfortable, so the playmaker played on a line with Matt Cullen and goal-scorer Dany Heatley -- an intriguing line not yet seen this season. Bouchard didn't score but finished with five shots.

"Even just watching them in practice, they looked great together," coach Mike Yeo said before the game. "Lot of movement, a lot of opening up lanes for each other. With that, I want [Bouchard] to play the game the way he has. I don't want him saying, 'OK, I'm playing with Heater now, I've got to get him the puck.'

"You start doing that, you stop moving your feet and you run out of time and space. And, he's just been playing so well."

Koivu on the mend

Captain Mikko Koivu missed his second game because of a leg injury, but he skated Monday and is a possibility to return Tuesday in Calgary.

Jed Ortmeyer made his season debut and became the 34th player to dress for the Wild this season. Ortmeyer played on a line with Houston Aeros linemate Warren Peters and Jarod Palmer.

With Bouchard's return, Chad Rau's NHL debut was put on hold. The former Colorado College forward said: "The way guys have been getting hurt, I'll just be ready. It's been a dream of mine ever since I've been little, so to be this close is awesome."

Rau hails from Eden Prairie, not Edina, but Heatley already dubbed him, "Cake eater."

Lasting family memory

After his NHL debut against the Islanders on Saturday, Palmer, a native of Fridley, took 15 friends and family members for dinner and drinks to Axel's Bonfire in St. Paul.

"It was awesome just to see my family down in the family room in the Wild rink. They felt special being in there," Palmer said. "They all bought tickets, so I just decided to buy them dinner. It was a great time."

Palmer had six shots in 15:38 of ice time.

"To get a puck on net my first shift was real helpful calming the nerves," Palmer said. "Grabbing my head and pulling it back together was a bit of a challenge. It was a memorable experience. It's something I'll cherish the rest of my life."

He was excited to play the Canucks on Monday because they were one of the teams he turned down to sign with the Wild after his senior year at Miami (Ohio).

"How could I turn down my home team for anything?" Palmer said.


• Zack Phillips' signing finally became official Monday. The Wild's 2011 first-round pick (28th overall) signed a three-year deal, $2.775 million deal -- the max for a 2011 draft pick. That includes an annual $92,500 signing bonus and small performance bonuses. Phillips will remain with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he's sixth in league scoring with 54 points. He is second in the Q with a plus-30. He has points in 29 of 32 games this season, including a league-best 22-game point streak.

• Defensemen Greg Zanon and Justin Falk were scratched.

• Monday night, an NHL holiday roster freeze began until 11:01 p.m. Dec. 27. No trades allowed, although players called up after Dec. 11 can be reassigned until Friday.

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