Chris Bourque's Wait Is Over, as Left Wing Makes Caps Roster
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Chris Bourque wanted nothing to do with Bruce Boudreau when he walked into the team's training facility yesterday morning. So when the Washington Capitals' coach approached his locker before practice, Bourque braced for the worst.
Boudreau, though, only wanted to know about Bourque's dinner plans for later in the week.
"You wanna have dinner at your dad's house Wednesday?" Boudreau asked. And just like that, Bourque's dream during this preseason -- making the Capitals' opening night roster -- was complete.
The quasi-dinner invitation from Boudreau confirmed to Bourque that he would be a Capital when the team takes the ice to open the regular season Thursday night in Boston, where the jersey of Bourque's father, Ray, hangs in the rafters and where Chris spent his childhood and college years.
Boudreau also announced that rugged, shot-blocking forward Quintin Laing and defenseman Tyler Sloan had also made it through the team's final cuts of training camp and will be on the roster come Thursday night.
Bourque, though, might have had the most to worry about. Already fighting an uphill battle thanks to his undersized 5-foot-8, 178-pound frame, Bourque did not play in four of the Capitals' six preseason games after suffering a mild concussion. But he recovered in time to score a goal in the team's final exhibition against the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon.
"It was a little nerve-wracking coming in because you don't know what's gonna happen," said Bourque, who had 26 goals and 68 assists for Hershey last year and played for Boston University. "It was a really weird camp for me . . . but going back to Boston is kind of the cherry on top."
Laing's presence on the roster would have been inconceivable just six months ago, when he ruptured his spleen in his first game after being called up to the Capitals last March. But with a remarkably quick recovery complete and a penchant for blocking shots and causing havoc on the penalty kill, the rugged 30-year-old forward finds himself on an opening-night NHL roster for the first time in his career.
"We thought he was the perfect guy to have on our checking line," said Boudreau. Like Laing, the 28-year-old Sloan forced his way onto the roster after a strong training camp, beating out 2007 first-round draft pick Karl Alzner in the process. On Monday, Boudreau called Sloan the team's "best defenseman" in the preseason.
How long the three stick with the Capitals remains to be seen. Sloan is one of seven defensemen on the roster, and just six typically are in uniform. Laing and Bourque are only safe until injured forwards Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann are available next month.
"I don't really know about long-term, but I survived this round and I'm happy to be here and that's all that matters," said Sloan.
Headed to Hershey
Alzner and forward Brandon Sugden were optioned to Hershey yesterday morning after not making the opening-night roster. Forwards Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux were put on waivers. The team will find out at noon Tuesday whether either is picked up by another team. If they aren't, both will report to Hershey as well. . . .
Forward Eric Fehr was a full participant in practice Monday for the first time this preseason. No date has been set for his return.