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The Duke of Winnipeg

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well, if this adage rings true then Manitoba Moose forward Alexandre Bolduc must have an orchard in his backyard.

Bolduc (pronounced Bul-duke) is the only member of the Moose to have appeared in every game this season. Considering all that’s gone on in Manitoba with injuries and call-ups, his reliability has been extremely valuable.

“He’s one of those guys that has the depth to play different positions and that’s exactly what we’ve needed with guys being in and out of the line-up,” said Moose head coach Scott Arniel.

The list of injuries that Manitoba has been forced to deal with this season is as long as it is daunting. The worst span came in late December and early January as eight Moose regulars were either on the shelf or with the Vancouver Canucks.

Players hit with significant injuries included Colby Genoway, Ryan Shannon, Brad Moran and Jannik Hansen, with Jozef Balej already out of the line-up, while Jason Jaffray, Mason Raymond and Mike Brown were all in Vancouver. Toss in a few players down with the flu and it’s a wonder the Moose could even dress a full roster.

One might assume that a team with this many man-games missed would be basement dwellers in the standings, but a record of 27-21-2-2 has them seated second in the Western Conference’s North Division, so it’s been quite the opposite.

A respectable record of 11-11-1 in the injury/call-up riddled months of December and January kept the Moose competitive in the standings and Bolduc is one of the main reasons why.

Besides staying healthy, Bolduc has also been a major contributor offensively as he currently sits tied for second in team scoring with 14 goals and 15 assists in 52 games. The 22-year-old is also plus-6 with 68 penalty minutes and three power play goals this season.

“So far it’s going pretty well,” said Bolduc. “I think team-wise, besides a few slumps, we’ve had a pretty positive season and I think all us young guys are really starting to learn and we’re starting to come along right now.

“I’m pretty happy to be here, it’s a great place to play. This has probably been one of the most fun seasons I’ve ever played so hopefully it continues going well and we can get some more wins.”

Prior to this season, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound centre had appeared in only 61 games with the Moose over the last two seasons. He bounced around between the Bakersfield Condors of the East Coast Hockey League and the Moose, unable to solidify himself in the line-up. It’s safe to say Bolduc won’t be back with the Condors anytime soon though, as he’s more than taken advantage of the full-time employment in Manitoba.

“He’s got off to a great start for us and the first half of the year he was very good and very consistent,” said Arniel. “He’s had some ups and downs here lately but I really like the way he’s played in these last couple of weeks.

“He wants to show people that he’s deserving of an NHL contract, and much like Jason Jaffray, he wants to prove to people that he’s an everyday player that can come and really contribute.”

Bolduc’s early season success raised a lot of eyebrows at the beginning of the year, but his timely play has now come to be expected. His game-winning goal against the Rochester Americans on Jan. 5 made it clear that he’s ready to be a leader on this team.

“If the young guys don’t step up when the big guns are out, the team’s not going to be successful,” said Bolduc. “So whenever you can help the team get a win, anyway you can, it’s great. Scoring goals is probably the best thing in hockey and to get one and have it be the game-winner, that was just an awesome feeling.”

A native of Montreal, Que., Bolduc played five seasons in the QMJHL with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Shawinigan Cataractes prior to making the jump to the AHL. He racked up 156 points in 257 career games, which earned him quite a few looks come NHL draft time. He was the St. Louis Blues’ fourth choice, 127th overall, in the 2003 NHL entry draft, but despite the thrill of being drafted, the St. Louis organization wasn’t for him. Luckily, Manitoba’s is.

“This is probably one of the top organizations, both here and Vancouver, so I got pretty lucky in the sense that I got to come to Manitoba,” said Bolduc, who signed with the Moose in Jan. 2006. “I’ve just been treated so kindly here and I just couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Neither could the Moose at this point. They’re just hoping he continues with his steady diet of Red Delicious apples so he can avoid ever meeting the team doctor.

“Anytime guys get hurt they lose their timing and they lose a bit of the momentum they might have had going at that time,” said Arniel. “So knock on wood that he’ll be good for the rest of the year.”

+6 - Plus/Minus rating

14 - Goals scored this year

- Total assists recorded this year
  52 - Games played this year with the Moose

  68 - Total penalty minutes recorded this year

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