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Wild's Bouchard eager to get back on ice while recovering from concussion

By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer

ST. PAUL -- Pierre-Marc Bouchard was supposed to be centering Minnesota's second line this season.

Instead, he's been watching helplessly and without expression from a perch in the press box while the Wild play without him. His pads, jersey and helmet have been replaced by a black wool coat and a scarf.

This is what recovering from a concussion can look like. Bouchard must wait and watch until his headaches go away. No skating. No shooting. No running. No real exercise, except for regular walks around the neighborhood.

"Get some fresh air. Get my legs going a little bit," Bouchard said. "Besides that, I watch TV or read or just sleep."

The 25-year-old has missed all but the first game of this season because of a head injury he first suffered last March. He missed the final eight games of last season, and after believing he was all right took an elbow to the jaw in a September exhibition game that brought the symptoms back.

He was fighting a flu-like illness at the time, but after a weak effort in the Wild's season opener and the persistence of headaches he was pulled off the ice once it was became clear it was by more than just the virus.

"I took two months off and worked out all summer and felt good," Bouchard said during a recent home game. "The thing is during the summer, you don't have any contact. I came back here, and in that first exhibition game I got hit."

The eighth overall pick in the 2002 draft, Bouchard had a career-high 20 goals in the 2006-07 season and a career-high 50 assists in the 2007-08 season. He's in the second year of a five-year contract worth $20.4 million.

"It's just frustrating to not be able to play," he said. "You cannot look back and say, 'I should've done this."'

The Wild aren't counting on getting Bouchard back this season.

"The important thing for me is that he gets healthy and gets back to being the Pierre-Marc Bouchard of old," general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "If we can get a happy, healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard back for next season that's great. To me it's not a rush."

That's the view these days around the NHL, which like the NFL has become more concussion-conscious in recent years amid growing concerns about the long-term risk of the injuries in these hard-contact sports. The competition committee formed by the league and the players' union last year discussed a rule designed to curtail hits to the head, but a consensus was not reached.