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Bourque Makes Timely Return

by Peter Zuurbier / Calgary Flames
With the regular season squarely in the rearview mirror, the Flames are preparing to engage the Chicago Blackhawks in a first round battle that promises to be gruelling. As a result the Flames need all hands-on deck, and with no salary cap constrictions in the playoffs, the ice for Monday's practice was crowded as those players close to being healthy, and a number of call-ups from Quad City, joined the regulars on the ice.



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Two notable faces seen buzzing around the rink Monday included Dion Phaneuf who missed the last two games of the season with an undisclosed injury, and Rene Bourque, who has been sidelined with a high-ankle sprain since February 19. Bourque, who had a career-high 21 goals before his injury is rearing to get back.

"I didn't know what to expect, I'd never had (a high-ankle sprain) before... Now that I'm back I'm not going to worry about it," said Bourque. "I started feeling good last week, started skating hard... It's been eight weeks; it's been a long time so I definitely didn't rush it back."

Bourque's contributions to the team were sorely missed during his absence, and he knows he'll start out slightly behind the curve.

"The first two games will be a good test... getting hit in the corners, falling down. It's hard to test it on the ice by yourself so in the practice and in games is where it'll get a real test," said Bourque. "It's gonna take me a few games to get back and feel comfortable out there. It's not gonna happen overnight... just keep it simple."

Head coach Mike Keenan is confident Bourque will shake off the rust quickly and contribute immediately.

"(Bourque) played hard this afternoon and felt good. That's a good response for his first full practice... He didn't see the trainer after practice so I'm assuming he's fine," said Keenan, who also enjoyed a chuckle when discussing Dion Phaneuf's condition.

"(Phaneuf) is coming off a couple of days break which I think was good for him," said Keenan, joking that "He was fine... he didn't particularly like the amount of work we had to do I don't think."

Among the other warm bodies welcomed to practice were Dustin Boyd, Kyle Greentree, Warren Peters, Brett Sutter and David Van der Gulik as well as goaltender Leland Irving from Quad City of the American Hockey League. Since almost all of them contributed to the Flames at one point or another over the past 82 games, Keenan was pleased that they had the opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere surrounding the second season.

"(The Quad City call-ups) had an influence on our standings over the course of the season. They were contributors in a lot of different ways, in some tough circumstances... They all participated in our season," said Keenan. "They come in and give you enthusiasm and energy and it's something that the club can utilize right now."

Bourque's excitement is three-fold, first he is returning from an almost eight-week absence, and he is not only playing in his first ever playoff series, but the opponent is his former team.

"I'm sure I'll be a little nervous the night before the game and the day of, but we're playing in Chicago, a place I'm comfortable playing in... It'll be a lot of fun," said Bourque. "I'm just gonna go out there, clear my mind, obviously it's a new season, I want to get off to good start and play like I can... I've never played in the playoffs before, I'm looking forward to it, hopefully we can get 'er done."

Bourque is well aware of his teams' struggles against the Blackhawks this season, but he is steadfast in his confidence that the Flames will make a strong showing starting Thursday.

"Obviously we struggled against them in the regular season... they're a good young team but obviously the playoffs are a different story, we have a lot of experience on our end, hopefully that'll come into play and make a difference in the series."







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