Bouck bouncin' back

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- At least Tyler Bouck finally has his health.

Just over a year after suffering a severe groin injury, Bouck is back on the farm providing energy on a line with Nathan Smith and Mike Keane.

The injury prevented Bouck from an opening day spot on the Vancouver Canucks roster, and limited him to 20 games last season.

But rather than focus on an opportunity lost, Bouck understands the type of game he needs to play in order to give himself a chance to return to the Vancouver Canucks.

"It's over now and if anything, hopefully you're stronger mentally because you battled through that," said Bouck, who picked up his first assist of the season yesterday in a loss to the Rochester Americans.

It would be easy for Bouck to be bitter about his lot in the hockey world.

After spending the lockout year playing in Finland with TPS Turku, Bouck earned a one-way contract with the Canucks and had done enough in training camp to be in the opening-day lineup.

Then disaster struck.

On the day before the season was set to open, Bouck tore his groin in practice and found himself on the shelf.

Rehabilitating the injury over the course of about three months was one of the most frustrating things he's had to go through in his career.

'FRUSTRATING'

"I had the bad knee surgery but at least with that you knew what the protocol was, that it was going to be six months and you knew the rehab you had to do," said Bouck. "With this, it was so up in the air. It was rest a week and go out on the ice and try it again and it wouldn't feel good.

"It was extremely frustrating. It was a long year and even after I came back I had to stay on top of it. For the first half of my summer, I didn't really lift weights, all I did was groin exercises," he continued.

"Now I feel fine and I don't even think about it anymore. It feels good when I'm skating out there and I'm just focusing on playing."

Bouck played eight games during conditioning stints with the Moose, but only appeared in 12 with Vancouver, getting a goal, an assist and 21 penalty minutes.

His limited play meant he had to sign a two-way contract this past summer and would need to outshine one of the 13 forwards in camp on one-way deals to earn a roster spot with the Canucks.

It didn't happen.

"Sure it's disappointing but being realistic, I didn't play very good last year and that's the way things go," said Bouck, a second round pick (57th overall) of the Dallas Stars in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. "You've got to work hard and try to improve each day."

So now the journey begins again, as it did when Bouck first joined the Moose after the Canucks acquired him in late December of 2001 from the Phoenix Coyotes.

"You go back to square one and start building your game back up," said Bouck. "I'm not going to be more than a third or fourth liner in the NHL, so I've got to make sure I'm making the right plays at the blue-line and getting pucks in deep.

"One of the greatest things is leading by example and working hard. That's what I'm going to try to do."


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