Wild's Bouchard stays hopeful as concussion hits again

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2012 - 6:46 AM

The winger says the symptoms aren't as prevalent this time, but he'll still be out indefinitely for a team that needs scoring.

CHICAGO - Pierre-Marc Bouchard did everything right.

He patiently waited 20 months for his brain to heal. He started wearing a helmet designed to help prevent concussions. He began wearing a new mouthguard, also designed to help prevent concussions.

But all it took was one hit from behind and one elbow to the chin to render Bouchard with another concussion.

Now the Wild winger prays he's not back to square one.

"We're trying to be positive here," Bouchard said Wednesday -- one day after it was announced he would be sidelined indefinitely because of a concussion. "There's symptoms that I had in my previous one that I don't have right now. I guess it could be a good sign. But I still have headaches."

Bouchard's previous concussion limited him to one game from March 2009 to December 2010. But during that concussion and subsequent bout with post-concussion syndrome "pretty much everything used to bother" Bouchard, "like driving and watching TV."

"I'm able to do those things right now," he said.

But since being driven face-first into the boards in Winnipeg on Dec. 13 by Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian, Bouchard has felt "pressure" -- the same "pressure" he complained of during his long stint away two years ago.

He missed two games before returning because he "felt decent enough to play." He sure looked decent, being one of the Wild's best forwards since late December. He's the team's fourth-leading scorer with 22 points in 37 games.

But in Vancouver last week, Bouchard took an accidental, harmless-looking elbow from Chris Higgins, and ever since Bouchard has experienced headaches, tired eyes and fatigue.

"Next morning, I didn't feel myself," Bouchard said. "Something was wrong. I was feeling off."

Bouchard will rest and receive treatment. He has yet to make an appointment with Boston-based concussion specialist Robert Cantu, who treated Bouchard two years ago. Bouchard said he will be patient and not begin working out until he's 100 percent symptom free.

"I wish I could give you a timetable," he said. "I'm positive I can come back. The only bad thing about concussions is you don't know how much time it's going to take."

Asked if he was worried his career could be in jeopardy, Bouchard said, "I'm not thinking about this right now. I'm just focusing on getting better as quick as I can. We'll see how it goes and where it takes me."

Because of the uncertain status of Bouchard and concussed second-liner Guillaume Latendresse, plus the fact that it will be difficult for General Manager Chuck Fletcher to make a significant trade with more than six weeks until the Feb. 27 trade deadline, Wild players will have to step up in the interim.

A good sign came during Tuesday's 5-4 shootout victory over San Jose when several players did just that. Nick Johnson scored for the first time since Dec. 4. Warren Peters scored his first goal this season. Casey Wellman crashed the net all night and had two assists. Cal Clutterbuck had a two-point night for the first time since Dec. 14.

"It needs to continue," coach Mike Yeo said. "More than anything, it's just the attitude that we brought into the game. We looked like a very determined group. And when you have that kind of attitude, you can fight through the things that are in front of you.

"The way we approached the game, I didn't think there were going to be too many things that could stop us."

That's the type of approach the Wild brought when it won 17 of 21. It fought for everything it got. Multiple players, whether it was third- and fourth-liners or minor-leaguers, could be slotted up in the lineup and be interchangeable with injured players -- or disciplined players, like Devin Setoguchi, who was benched Tuesday for missing a team meeting.

"We were just alive. Everyone was going," Setoguchi said. "When we stick to our system and everyone just sticks to the way we can play and believe in each other, it's fun to watch. It's not just going to turn around now because we played one game like that. We've got to keep building."

And that will be critical as the Wild plays its next four games on the road -- starting Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

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