(Sports Network) – After getting shut out for the first time this season in their previous game, the Minnesota Wild’s offense is expected to get a boost tonight with the return of forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Bouchard is slated to hit the ice for the first time in over a year this evening, returning from post-concussion syndrome to battle the Phoenix Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center.
The 26-year-old hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 3, 2009, last year’s season opener. Bouchard has missed 112 of Minnesota’s last 113 games and his return to the lineup will be welcomed.
“The last seven to 10 days I’ve been feeling pretty good and pretty much symptom free,” said Bouchard, a 20-goal scorer in 2006-07, on Minnesota’s website. “We had a conference call with Dr. [James] Kelly a few days ago and we came to the conclusion that the next step for me would be to try it in a game and see how I feel.”
Bouchard has 190 assists in 426 career games, including a career-high 50 in 2007-08.
Minnesota could use some help tonight after getting blanked, 3-0, in Calgary on Monday. Backup netminder Jose Theodore made 28 saves as the Wild lost for the fourth time in five games.
Niklas Backstrom should return to the net tonight looking to snap a personal three-game losing streak. Backstrom has allowed 18 goals in that span and was also in net for all four losses to the Coyotes last season, posting a 3.57 goals-against average.
Minnesota had won 10 of its previous 11 versus Phoenix prior to last year’s season series sweep and has lost two straight at home to the Coyotes since a seven-game series win streak at Xcel Energy Center.
While Backstrom was unable to beat the Coyotes last year, Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov was perfect versus the Wild, going 4-0 with a 2.00 GAA. He may not make the start tonight, though, after yielding two goals on 22 shots in last night’s 3-0 setback in Nashville.
Phoenix was shut out for the third time this season and first since Oct. 30. Bryzgalov lost in regulation on the road for the first time this year (5-1-2) and could get some rest tonight. Backup Jason LaBarbera hasn’t played since Nov. 10, which is also his lone start since Oct. 26., and has never before faced the Wild.
The Coyotes have lost two straight since a seven-game win streak and are 7-2-2 over their last 11 games.
“This was a big game for us, but that is part of what the NHL is,” Phoenix forward Shane Doan said. “You get lots of chances to respond, and we have a great chance [Wednesday] night.”
Center Kyle Turris returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games due to an upper-body injury. He skated in nearly 12 minutes of action and took four shots on goal.
Phoenix also had a four-game road winning streak snapped and is 6-4-2 as the guest this year. Minnesota is 7-5-1 at home.