SPRINGFIELD, MA Chris Bourque had been waiting all summer for the chance to finally wear the Black and Gold Bruins sweater in a game, and that finally happened Saturday night.
It was as a member of the Providence Bruins rather than the locked out Boston Bruins, and it arrived in a 4-1 loss to the Springfield Falcons in the P-Bruins final preseason tune-up at a largely empty MassMutual Center. But Bourque made the most out of it while wearing No. 17 for Providence.
The confident winger finished with an assist on the only goal Providence supplied over the sixty minutes of hockey, and felt good about the experience headed into the AHL regular season. Its the first of more than 80 games he hopes to play in a Bs sweater with a very familiar Bourque stitched on the back of it.
Or perhaps many more than that if the forward is tapped for third line duty in Boston once the NHL lockout has been lifted.
This is definitely something Ive been looking forward to since I got traded to Boston, said Bourque. Playing in a game for the first time since last April it was good to simply knock the rust off and compete against somebody other than my own team.
We had a few scrimmages at the beginning of training camp, but its always hard to gauge things just from those. So it was good to get into the game and I felt pretty good out there. We didnt get the win, but it was good to get a feel for the puck and get ready for the season.
The Bourque helper was from a neutral zone feed to Lane MacDermid that the P-Bruins turned into a booming shot from the left face-off circle. The MacDermid wrister stunned the handcuffed goalie, and a rebound bounced right back to the top of the slot area. Trent Whitfield scooped it up and shoveled a backhanded shot into the open net that tied the score at 1-1 in the first period.
Bourque and Spooner skated together once again on Providences top forward line throughout the game, and Ray Bourques eldest son was also a big presence on what appears to be a much improved power play. Bourque was working a point position on the man advantage and showed both the quick decision-making and on-ice vision that will make things happen when the P-Bruins have the puck.
It seemed like on more than one occasion Bourque flipped the puck into a space that surprised the skater he was passing to while working the power play, but that should lessen as the skill players get used to each other.
Its also one area where hes anxious to help young offensive playmakers like Spooner and Jared Knight on the man advantage after Providence struggled in that department last season. Thats the least the 26-year-old should be capable of after piling up 93 points in 73 games for the Hershey Bears last season.
Weve got some really good young offensive players and it was fun to snap the puck around with them on the power. It doesnt really matter how good it looks if the puck doesnt go in, said Bourque. But wed also only worked on it for one day. It should be 100 percent ready to go by next Friday the AHL season opener.
Unlike the NHL, Bourque and his P-Bruins teammates will all be ready to go next Friday when pro hockey finally makes its return to the New England area.