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Bourque thrilled at chance to play in Montreal

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- Rene Bourque says he's always wanted to play for the Montreal Canadiens, and with a name like his that would be understandable even though the Alberta native doesn't speak a word of French.

So when he walked into the Canadiens dressing room for the first time Saturday morning after his trade Thursday from the Calgary Flames, Bourque was a bit awestruck by the sheer volume of hockey history decorating the walls.

"It's awesome," Bourque said. "I still haven't really had the chance to look around and look at all the plaques and the names on the wall, and I'm sure they have Stanley Cup banners everywhere. It's exciting. I've always wanted to play here, I just didn't think it would be this soon."

Bourque's excitement will have to wait another day as he will watch the Canadiens face the red hot Ottawa Senators on Saturday night while serving the final game of his five-game ban for elbowing Washington's Nicklas Backstrom in the head.

Bourque was brought in by Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier because he brings a physical dimension that the departed Michael Cammalleri did not, but for a player who has been suspended twice in the past month it creates a delicate balance of trying to stay on the good side of the law while also doing what your new team expects of you.

Bourque, however, anticipates no problem in his ability to stick to his physical game while also playing within the rules.

"Obviously what I did was wrong and it was unfortunate, but it was more of a reaction than a body check. So I'm not really worried about being timid out there and staying away from physical contact, because if I'm not doing that you probably won't like my style," Bourque said. "I've never had a problem with a suspension until this past month. It's been seven years with no red flags, then two in one month, it changes your perception. I'm not worried about it, I know what I've done and I'll learn from it."

His new coach Randy Cunneyworth was a physical presence in his own playing days, and says that changed perception may not necessarily be a bad thing for Bourque.

"It makes guys a little bit leery when you know a guy has that reckless tendency," Cunneyworth said. "So maybe you shy away a bit and then you can win those battles."

A very common criticism of Bourque's game is that when he's on, he can be dominant, but those games are not nearly common enough. Bourque has heard it before and hopes this new opportunity with the third organization of his career will give him a chance to correct that inconsistent tendency.

"I'm working on it every game, I have to get better every game," Bourque said. "This is a fresh start for me here, it's a clean slate. I'm looking to shed that reputation, I guess."

How exactly Bourque will be used remains to be seen, but the addition of another big body makes it easier for Cunneyworth to implement his philosophy of how to construct forward lines.

"We're trying to design lines with elements of everything," he said.

That means having a playmaker, a shooter and a grinding, physical player on every line, but before Bourque arrived there weren't enough of those physical type players on the roster to properly spread the wealth and Cunneyworth said he liked the options Bourque provides him.

Bourque, meanwhile, simply likes the idea of pulling on that Canadiens uniform for the first time Sunday night.

"It's sinking in, I'm definitely getting more and more excited as they day goes on," Bourque said. "I can't wait to play tomorrow night in front of the fans here."
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