The Capitals also will face Rene Bourque for the first time since the winger elbowed Nicklas Backstrom in the head, knocking Washington’s leading scorer out of the lineup indefinitely with a concussion.
When the incident happened Jan. 3, Bourque was a member of the Flames, a team the Capitals didn’t anticipate playing again until next season.
Then, nine days later, Bourque got traded to the Habs in a four-player deal that sent Mike Cammalleri to Calgary. So, now, the Capitals have been granted an unexpected chance to get even with Bourque, who served a five-game suspension for the flagrant elbow.
Joel Ward said the Capitals have not discussed settling any scores tonight. But the veteran also said he and his teammates will make sure to finish their checks on Bourque.
“Guys are going to be playing pretty hard, especially against him,” said Ward, who was one of eight players to take part in this morning’s pre-game skate Bell Centre. “Let him know that what he did, we thought was a pretty cheap shot.”
Adding to the anticipation? Coach Dale Hunter has decided to put rugged defenseman John Erskine back into the lineup. Erskine hasn’t played in five games.
Erskine, though, downplayed the potential for fireworks.
“We have one goal tonight and that’s to get the two points,” Erskine said. “The whole thing that went on with Bourque is not something I really want to talk about. We have more important things than that.”
Pressed on the matter, Erskine added: “Guys were upset, but it’s not a subject I want to talk about right now.”
Hunter struck a similar tone, saying there’s no connection between Erskine’s return to the lineup and tonight’s opponent.
“It’s one of those things, if you’re battling for the playoffs and take a bad penalty, it’s going to cost your team,” said Hunter, who ranks second all-time in penalty minutes with 3,565. “It’s one of those things where you have to think about the team first.”
Bourque, however, is bracing himself for what he might face.
“I obviously don’t feel good about what I did and I apologized for it,” Bourque was quoted as saying on the Canadiens’ official website. “But I’m sure they’ll be a few guys probably coming after me. It’s part of the game and I just need to be prepared for it.”
— Here’s the video of the elbow on Backstrom:
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