Cobwebs of concussion still haunt Bouchard

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2012 - 1:42 AM

He's holding out hope to return this season. But that possibility, like the Wild's playoff chances in the West, is growing more faint.

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Pierre-Marc Bouchard, left, was ready to celebrate with Nick Johnson after scoring a goal against Phoenix on New Year’s Eve at Xcel. Four days later, a concussion put Bouchard back on the sidelines.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

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In a lot of ways, Pierre-Marc Bouchard cannot believe he's dealing with this all over again.

It's the nightmare of all nightmares.

After playing one game in 20 months because of a concussion and subsequent postconcussion syndrome, the Wild winger returned Dec. 1, 2010, and finished the season healthy -- one of the NHL's feel-good stories.

He returned this season determined to build on what he had started and help the Wild end its three-year playoff drought.

But with the Wild on fire, having won 17 of 21 games and leading the league in points, the team played in Winnipeg on Dec. 13. In the waning seconds, Bouchard played the puck behind the net and was crushed from behind by the Jets' Zach Bogosian.

"That hit from behind in Winnipeg just started everything again," said Bouchard, 27. "It is frustrating. I thought I was over this."

Bouchard missed a couple of games but felt good enough to return. He played eight games. He scored four goals, but an inadvertent elbow by Chris Higgins in the final seconds in Vancouver on Jan. 4 was the final blow.

It was announced Jan. 10 that Bouchard again had suffered a concussion and would be out indefinitely. He has missed 14 games and counting. The team is 4-8-2 since.

"I still have symptoms right now," Bouchard said. "Pressure to my head. My vision is a little off. I'm trying to stay positive because I don't feel as bad as I did in my first one -- that big one (March 25, 2009), but they're all different. I still have symptoms, so it's tough."

There is no indication that Bouchard will return soon -- or at all -- this season.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher has said a number of times in the past couple of weeks that barring a "stroke of good fortune," he isn't assuming that Bouchard or winger Guillaume Latendresse, another concussion casualty, will play again this year.

That's a gigantic loss for a Wild team that ranks 29th in offense and has fallen to 12th place in the Western Conference.

Since that Dec. 13 game in Winnipeg, the Wild has accumulated 15 of a possible 50 points (5-15-5). Eighth-place Phoenix is on pace for 90.7 points. For the Wild to reach 91, it will have to snag 33 of a final 54 points.

That's a .611 clip for a team that has played at a .300 pace since Dec. 13. And remember, this is assuming 91 points will be enough. There's a good chance it'll take more.

"I haven't quit on this season yet," Bouchard said. "I know sometimes concussions can be long, but right now I'm still hoping it can turn around quickly and maybe in a couple weeks I can feel good and be able to train and be ready."

That seems farfetched, though, and it might be unrealistic to think the Wild season can be saved in a couple of weeks.

The most important thing for Bouchard, the Wild's third-leading scorer in history with 327 points in 522 games, is to get healthy. He has one more year left on his five-year, $20.4 million contract that pays him $4.3 million next year.

Bouchard just wants to feel normal again, and he admits, he's starting to worry about his future.

Asked if there will come a point where he thinks about retirement, Bouchard said: "For sure, at one point, if you keep having concussions, it would be kind of not smart to keep going.

"But I've talked with the doctors. I'm having some symptoms, but they're not major. It's not like I'm vomiting. I'm not dizzy every five minutes. So for now, I'm positive I'm going to be back at some point and playing again. I just can't say when."

Help on the way

The Wild will recall defenseman Marco Scandella and winger Kris Foucault on Monday, according to sources, to infuse some energy into a struggling lineup.

Scandella, who had six points and was minus-10 in 37 games with the Wild earlier this season, has five points in nine games with Houston of the AHL.

If Foucault, a 2009 fourth-round pick, plays Tuesday against red-hot Anaheim, it'll be his NHL debut. The winger has 10 goals and 23 points in 47 games for Houston.

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