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Bourque doing the work, not the sticks

by Adam Kimelman
It's the artist, not the paintbrush, says Rene Bourque.

Bourque switched to a new stickblade last week, and the result was a two-game outburst that saw him score 5 goals, including a pair of game-winners. It was part of a week that saw him score six times in three games, with 3 game-winning goals, and earn recognition as NHL First Star of the Week.

The scoring outburst rocketed Bourque up the goal-scoring standings. He entered Tuesday's game against the Oilers tied for sixth in the League with his 6 goals, ahead of more heralded scorers like Alexander Semin, Pavel Datsyuk, Danny Briere and some guy named Ovechkin.

Bourque's week started Oct. 17 -- his first game back after missing time with a concussion -- when he scored 2:10 into overtime off a rebound for the lone goal in the Flames' 1-0 win against the Predators in Nashville.

"We needed to get that road trip off to a good start," Bourque said. "To beat a team like Nashville, they were undefeated still, they were playing pretty well. To win that one in overtime, a tight-checking game, that was big."

Three nights later, in Columbus, he picked up a different stick than he had been using, and the result was his second career hat trick, plus an assist. His first goal, with 28.1 seconds left in the first period off a rifle slap shot from just inside the blue line, served as the game-winner in the Flames' 6-2 victory against the Blue Jackets. He added a shorthanded goal 5:08 into the second period, and banged in his own rebound with 5.8 seconds left in the third to complete his night. He also set up Niklas Hagman's goal that started the scoring, finished a plus-3 and had a game-high five shots.

He kept his torrid scoring pace up when the team returned to Scotiabank Saddledome two nights later, as he scored twice in the first period of the Flames' 4-0 win against the Sharks. His first goal, a one-timer from the right circle 4:12 into the game, opened the scoring and was yet another game-winning goal.

Bourque's scoring splurge shouldn't come as a major surprise. He's scored at least 20 the past two seasons, and last season's career-best 27 goals was second on the Flames to Jarome Iginla.

Bourque told reporters he hasn't changed much about his game, instead deflecting credit to his linemates, Hagman and Olli Jokinen.

"Our team's been playing a lot better," he told reporters Tuesday. "Everybody as a group has been picking up their game to a level where we need it to be successful. Olli and Hags have been a big part of my success. Everybody raised their level of play and it's been getting us a lot of wins."

After losing their first three games to start the season, the Flames have won two in a row and four of their last five to take a two-point lead in the Northwest Division standings.

Bourque's stickblade has been getting a big part of the credit for his scoring streak, but he's adamant that it isn't all that different from what he had been using.

"It's not the stick," he said. "I hope not, because if it is, I'm in trouble. … There's not really a difference, same curve, just a tiny bit different. I don't think it's the stick. It's getting in position to shoot the puck and getting nice passes from my teammates."

It's also the development that comes with age and experience. An undrafted free agent who spent four seasons at the University of Wisconsin and one season in the American Hockey League, he had 17 goals in 66 games as a rookie with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2005-06 season. After three seasons with the Blackhawks, he was traded to the Flames on July 1, 2008 for future considerations.

He's been making the Blackhawks regret that move ever since. He had 21 goals in 58 games two seasons ago, and then scored 27 -- 6 on the power play, 4 shorthanded -- last season.

Now 28, and a fully developed 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, Bourque could be just starting to scratch the surface of his scoring touch.

"He just has so much confidence right now," veteran center Craig Conroy told the Calgary Sun. "He's got to keep that confidence and just build on it. He’s a young guy and he’s got some great years ahead of him, but this really looks like this is his coming out party right now.

"He could be a 40-goal guy. Maybe more."

Contact Adam Kimelman at
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