Symptom-free Bouchard aims for season opener

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 7, 2013 - 11:16 PM
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Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who sustained a season-ending concussion Jan. 4, 2012, says he is "pretty much symptom-free" and is aiming to be ready by Opening Night.

Bouchard expects to be cleared to participate fully in training camp but has not been cleared to play yet because he hasn't faced the final hurdle -- contact.

"My guess is training camp will be my last test," Bouchard said. "It'll be intense, I'll be able to get into physical stuff, game-like situations, but I still don't know."

Asked if it'll be pushing it to be ready by the opener, he said, "No, no, no, I don't think it'll be pushing it. We've been taking it step by step and making sure I don't jump one. We'll see during training camp, but I feel good."

For him, Bouchard said the lockout was a blessing in disguise.

"It's kind of funny to say it was a good thing, but a month ago, I was not feeling 100 percent," he said. "Now my symptoms are gone. I just need to go through some contact and hopefully be fine after a few practices with bumps and pushing. It was a good thing for me to get some more time off."

If Bouchard is ready and no Wild forwards are injured in training camp, Mikael Granlund, expected to arrive from Houston of the AHL on Tuesday, could be the only forward prospect to make the team. There are no obvious openings.

"We have a lot of players," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "But, inevitably, as we've shown the last couple years, you run into injuries and the great thing this year is we have a lot of depth.

"This will be a hard team to make out of training camp [with the lack of spots]. There will be very little opportunity to showcase your talents, so we may have to pick a team, start and react based on performance and injuries."

Harding feeling good

Goalie Josh Harding, diagnosed in October with multiple sclerosis, said he feels great and anticipates no problems. He doesn't know yet how his weekly treatment will affect him.

"It's test and trial. We'll see how it goes," Harding said. "The boys said I look all right out there. It's kind of like a tryout for myself. I've got to go out there and prove to everybody that I can still do what I've been doing all my life. I have something to prove, that's for sure.

"But I feel good going in and felt great out there [Monday]. There's going to be ups and downs, but right now my body feels good."

Questions on blue line

Defenseman Marco Scandella remains sidelined in Houston because of a groin injury. He will be examined by Wild doctors this week.

The Wild is down to six defensemen, and if Scandella is out long-term, it might need to acquire one.

It signed defenseman Paul Mara, 33, to an AHL contract Monday. However, forward Nick Palmieri is expected to sign an NHL contract once the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified. That would be the Wild's 50th and final contract, meaning, if the Wild wanted to sign Mara to an NHL deal, it would have to make a trade.

The Wild does plan to bring defenseman Matt Dumba, a 2012 first-round pick, in for training camp from Red Deer of the Western Hockey League.

Etc.

• The Wild has 18-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, by Bovada. That's 10th-highest in the NHL. Pittsburgh is first at 8-1.

• The Wild is in discussions with Fox Sports North and "Becoming Wild," the team reality show that had to stop running during the lockout, likely will resume in the next few weeks.

• Local skating instructor Andy Ness ran the Wild's informal practice at Xcel Energy Center on Monday.

• The only Wild players other than Granlund and Scandella not at Monday's skate were Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. They're expected to arrive in town beginning Tuesday.

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