Bourque, Canadiens brace for Capitals

Rene Bourque of the Montreal Canadiens faces the Washington Capitals for the first time since receiving a five-game suspension for a reckless elbow to the head of Nicklas Backstrom.
Newly acquired Rene Bourque (27) and the Canadiens host the Capitals on Wednesday. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Thanks to a trade, Rene Bourque will face the Washington Capitals again much sooner than originally planned.

The Capitals are probably looking forward to it more than he is.

Two weeks after sidelining Washington leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom with a hit to the head, Bourque must take the ice to face the Capitals again when they visit his new club, the Montreal Canadiens, on Wednesday night.

Bourque struck Backstrom's head with his elbow during the Calgary's 3-1 loss at Washington (24-18-2) on Jan. 3, earning just a minor penalty at the time but later garnering a five-game league suspension and losing more than $200,000 US in salary.

Backstrom's fate was worse. The Capitals' leading scorer (42 points) suffered a concussion and hasn't played since.

Bourque wouldn't have faced the Capitals again this season had he stayed in Calgary, but the Flames dealt him to Montreal (17-20-8) in a four-player deal last Thursday.

"I obviously don't feel good about what I did and I apologized for it," Bourque told 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.

"I know guys will be looking to make sure they finish their checks against me."

Bourque didn't show up on the scoresheet in his Montreal debut Sunday, but it didn't matter as the Canadiens beat the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers 4-1.

Despite that victory, the Canadiens are 4-9-1 in their last 14 games and remain the bottom of the Northeast Division, one point back of fourth-place Buffalo. They also trail Washington by eight points for the East's eighth and final playoff spot.

"Until we're out, we're still fighting," Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges said. "This team has a lot of character and we've fought against adversity before.

"We've been doing it all season and we're going to keep fighting until there's nothing left."

Max Pacioretty has three goals and one assist in his last two games. Of his 15 goals and 17 assists on the season, 10 and 15, respectively, have come at home.

The Capitals are looking to rebound from Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders, their lone defeat on a four-game homestand. They were held to 17 shots — a season low, but also marking the 15th straight game in which they were held under 30 — their longest such streak in more than seven years.

"We have to start outshooting some teams," Capitals centre Brooks Laich said. "We have great goaltending.

"But the law of averages is going to catch up with you. We need to find some rhythm offensively and tilt the ice the other way where it's a constant attack rather than a constant defend."

Renewed production from captain Alexander Ovechkin could be just what the Capitals need. Ovechkin still leads the team with 18 goals, but has just one in his last six games.

Washington took two of three meetings with the Canadiens last season, including a 4-2 win at Montreal on March 15.