MONTREAL – Rene Bourque is back and ready to show Habs fans what he’s all about in 2012-13.
There’s probably no tougher market for an NHL player to adjust to than Montreal. What’s more, it’s nearly impossible for a new player entering the fray to fly under the radar while making those adjustments. Now, with a half-season as a Hab under his belt and a full recovery from abdominal surgery behind him, Rene Bourque is primed to become part of the solution.
“I feel good on the ice. I obviously didn’t want to repeat my performance from last season. I’m really motivated; I want to be a good player and I want to help this team win. My goal is to go out every night and perform,” said Bourque, following the team’s Monday morning skate. “I did my work and tried to come as prepared as I could because I really didn’t know what was going to happen during training camp and where I was going to play. I just wanted to give myself the best opportunity possible to go out there and play like I can.”
The Bell Centre was treated to a taste of that on Saturday night, as Bourque stood out as one of Canadiens’ top players against the Leafs. Engaged, intense, skating hard and driving the net, the Lac La Biche, AB native provided a large part of what the Habs were hoping for when they brought him in from Calgary last season.
“I definitely feel better skating than I did last year. I think my stride is a lot better. I had surgery over the lockout and that definitely helped,” continued Bourque, who joined Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta on Saturday as part of the team’s second power play unit that scored the Habs’ lone goal of the evening.
For Bourque, it would appear a little familiarity went a long way.
“I just feel more comfortable now after having played here for a bit and gotten a half season under my belt. I know the ins-and-outs of the organization and the city a little better, and what fans expect,” added the 31-year-old, who will attempt to re-establish himself as the player who scored 27 goals in back-to-back campaigns and earned first-star honors in the Heritage Classic against Montreal in 2010-11.
One person who clearly noticed the change in Bourque’s game was Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien, who was encouraged by the 6-foot-2 winger’s attitude, rewarding him with 15:33 of ice time, including 3:46 on the power play.
“I liked Rene Bourque, I though he played a really good game. He was intense, he was skating hard and was doing what we asked from him. I think it gave a wave of energy to Plekanec and Gionta in the third period, too,” highlighted Therrien, who kept the aforementioned line intact for Monday’s practice – a trend that could potentially continue into Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers.
“I learned about my players through practice last week,” added the Habs’ bench boss on his first impressions of Bourque and the rest of the team in action. “We didn’t have any exhibition games at all so Saturday night was the first time I learned about my players during real competition.
With the first game of the season out of the way, and another big two points up for grabs on Tuesday, Bourque, along with the rest of his teammates will look to iron out the wrinkles and build on the positives from Game 1.
“I think everyone’s in a different mindset than last year,” finished Bourque. “It was tough for everybody, but now it’s our goal to change the face of this franchise.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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