Positive sign for Minnesota this week as Pierre-Marc Bouchard resumed practicing after missing extensive time with a concussion.
But given his lengthy history with those types of injuries, it’s not surprising to hear team brass is preaching patience and caution regarding his latest comeback.
The 28-year-old forward returned to the ice with AHL Houston, his first action since missing the final 41 games of last year due to a concussion suffered on this hit from Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian:
It was the latest in a long line of concussion issues for Bouchard, who missed 112 of 113 games over a span from March 2009 to December 2010.
So, easy to understand why Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher is taking things slowly this time around.
“We’re trying to see if he can take the next step and get used to some contact again,” Fletcher told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “He’s not where we need him to get, but hopefully he can make progress.”
Getting Bouchard healthy and into the lineup would be a huge boon for the Wild. He’s a gifted offensive player — despite all the injuries, he’s racked up 60 points in his last 96 games — and provides playmaking skill.
That said, it’s unlikely Minnesota is counting on him for the upcoming campaign.
He wasn’t cleared for contact in October — meaning he’s still collecting salary on his five-year, $20.4 million deal — and, as the Star-Tribune suggests, he likely wouldn’t be able to participate in training camp if the season was to begin soon.
Kunitz cleared for contact, available for start of Caps series
The Pens may get back one of their most veteran skaters for their second-round series against Washington.
Chris Kunitz, who missed the last five regular season games and all of Pittsburgh’s Round 1 win over Columbus, has been cleared for contact (per the Tribune-Review) and could return from his lower-body ailment for Thursday’s opener at Verizon.
Kunitz, 37, finished the year with nine goals and 29 points in 71 games, averaging 15:31 TOI per night. It was a down season offensively, but the Pens are hopeful he can reclaim some of the form shown last spring, when he racked up 12 points in 24 games en route to the title.
A three-time Cup winner, Kunitz skated on the fourth line at today’s practice with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl.
In other health news, the Pens also declared d-man Chad Ruhwedel a game-time decision for Thursday, after he was sidelined with an upper-body injury. Carl Hagelin, out with a lower-body ailment, has continued skating and head coach Mike Sullivan said the team is hopeful Hagelin can play at some point against Washington.
DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)
Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.
Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.
Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.
If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.
The Washington Capitals got a bit of a scare in the first round, but they’ll go into the second round as the Stanley Cup favorites.
Per online bookmaker Bovada, here is the full list of Stanley Cup odds for the eight remaining teams:
Washington Capitals 7/2
Pittsburgh Penguins 17/4
Anaheim Ducks 11/2
Edmonton Oilers 11/2
St. Louis Blues 13/2
Nashville Predators 7/1
New York Rangers 8/1
Ottawa Senators 10/1
The Chicago Blackhawks entered the postseason as 4/1 Cup favorites at Bovada. Of course, the ‘Hawks were then swept by the Preds, who’ve gone from 25/1 long shots to 7/1 heading into their series with the Blues.
The Caps’ odds actually dropped to 13/2 after they fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1. But three straight wins, two in overtime, clinched them a spot against the Penguins in the second round.
The Ottawa Senators are the long shots of the bunch now, despite having home-ice advantage over the Rangers in the second round.
Isles bring back Seidenberg — one year, $1.25 million
The Islanders saw enough from Dennis Seidenberg this season to bring him back for another.
On Monday, the club announced it had signed the veteran defenseman to a one-year deal. Per Newsday, it’s for $1.25 million — a slight raise from the $1M he earned this season.
Seidenberg, 35, caught on with the Isles in late September, parlaying a good showing with Team Europe at the World Cup into a contract after going the entire summer unsigned.
For New York, it worked out very well.
Seidenberg was a regular lineup fixture, averaging 19:26 TOI over 73 games. He also provided some good production from the back end, scoring five goals and 22 points — his highest offensive output in five years.