Tonight will be a full circle moment for Colorado Avalanche forward Rene Bourque.
The 35-year-old broke into the league as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 5, 2005 against the Anaheim Ducks, and this evening he will play in his 700th NHL contest versus those same Blackhawks a member of the Avalanche.
"I'm proud of the career that I've had," Bourque told ColoradoAvalanche.com on Tuesday morning. "I've lived my dream, and it's kind of cool to play against the first team I've played for, for 700."
Bourque said that he knew he was approaching the milestone but was unaware that tonight's game would serve as the backdrop to his achievement until this morning.
"I'm surprised it is 700. I knew it was coming up, but I didn't know tonight was the night," he said. "It's kind of cool. I think after you get 1,000, that will be a big milestone. I'm not sure I'll be able to get to it, that's 300 (more) games."
The Lac La Biche, Alberta, native played his first four seasons of professional hockey with the Blackhawks organization after signing with the club as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Wisconsin in July of 2004. He spent his first year with Chicago's AHL franchise in Norfolk during the lockout season of 2004-05 but was on the ice for the Hawks' opening night the following year when the league returned to play.
"I think that is something that you'll never forget," he recalled of his first game. "We played Anaheim. It was the first game after the lockout. It was cool. Lining up against (Sergei) Fedorov and older guys like that, (Scott) Niedermayer. My first game is something that will stick in your head for a long time."
The right wing has come a long way since entering the NHL as a 24-year-old with a Consumer Behavior and Business degree in his back pocket after playing four full years of college hockey at Wisconsin.
He's had stops in Calgary, Montreal, Anaheim and Columbus in his previous 11 campaigns and made Colorado's squad this year after participating in training camp on a professional tryout. Bourque is third on the Avs in goals this year with nine, adding to his total that now includes 160 goals and 311 points.
Video: Bourque on playing in his 700th game
When Bourque began his career, he was with a Chicago team that was picking up young talent through the draft and letting them develop and experience the game at the NHL level. He sees a similar process happening in Colorado.
"They built their team through the draft and that is something that they're focusing on here (in Denver)," Bourque said. "They have [Nathan MacKinnon] and [Gabriel Landeskog] and [Matt Duchene] and Mikko [Rantanen]. Some of them have been in the league for a while now, but that is where it starts. You got to draft well and get these young kids experience."
Bourque said he benefitted from the experience of playing right away as a fresh face in the NHL.
"Everybody says what you can control is your effort and your mindset. Just being prepared to play every night," Bourque said. "That is something you learn as you get older, try and be consistent and more consistent every night. That is something our team could use, for sure."
The Avs have had plenty of good nights this year, but they've also had way too many bad ones, especially over the past few weeks. Colorado will look to pick up two more points this evening in the final contest of a four-game homestand and make Bourque's 700th a memorable occasion.
The Avalanche held an optional morning skate on Tuesday, with only a few skaters participating after the club went through meetings before.
Despite not having all 22 active players out on the ice, head coach Jared Bednar did note in his pregame news conference that he will make one lineup change. John Mitchell will return to center the Avs' fourth line after being a healthy scratch for the last two contests. Forward Andreas Martinsen will sit this evening.
Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch will also be a healthy scratch for the second straight outing.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will get the nod in the crease for a third consecutive game.
PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Mikko Rantanen - Nathan MacKinnon - Rene Bourque
Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau - Carl Soderberg - Jarome Iginla
Mikhail Grigorneko - John Mitchell - Joe Colborne
Fedor Tyutin - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Cody Goloubef
Eric Gelinas - Francois Beauchemin