It’s been over a year since Pierre-Marc Bouchard has played in a game for the Minnesota Wild. He’s missed 112 out of the team’s last 113 games due to post-concussion syndrome, yet tomorrow night Bouchard will be on the ice playing for the Wild once again.
In what is a surprising announcement by the Wild, they were eager to announce the comeback of Bouchard and for a team that needs a lift in so many ways, the return of offensive specialist and lifetime member of the Wild might be just the thing they need to get their act together.
Bouchard’s return couldn’t come at a better time for the Wild, who have lost four of five but are still only three points back of first place in the Northwest Division. With goals being tough to come by, Bouchard brings the offensive playmaking that Wild fans have been hoping for. Tomorrow, they’ll get to see it in person.
“I’m really excited, that’s for sure, but I’m also a little nervous,” he admitted. “It’s been a long time and I’ve been waiting for that day to play again. It seems like it’s going to be my first NHL game all over again.”
The Wild are in desperate need of a boost. Last night’s game against Calgary was one of their most moribund efforts of the season and with the team ranking 26th in scoring in the NHL, a point producer like Bouchard is just what they need. Wild fans will need to be patient with him though. After missing that much time, it takes a while to get those game legs going and to get clicking on all cylinders once again.
A guy that might make sense for Bouchard to be teamed up with on a line right away would be Martin Havlat. Havlat has looked outstanding of late and has been one of the few bright spots in the Wild lineup of late. With Havlat playing as well as he is, teaming him up with Bouchard makes sense. With Guillaume Latendresse out for the next couple of months after undergoing a pair of surgeries, the Wild are even thinner with scorers. If Bouchard can come back and play like the guy he was before suffering from concussion problems, he’ll be a big boost to the team.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.