So are the Capitals actually finished with Montreal forward Rene Bourque? His Jan. 3 elbow on Nicklas Backstrom while still playing for the Calgary Flames knocked the young Swede out of the lineup with a concussion. Reporters have seen Backstrom skate just once at Kettler Iceplex since Jan. 6 when he last took part in a full practice. That was a five-minute session on Jan. 23.
Bourque, traded from Calgary in the midst of his five-game suspension for that hit, fought Washington forward Matt Hendricks early in the first period of the Caps’ 3-0 win at Bell Centre on Jan. 18. That was the end of things that night. For a brief period this week we wondered if enforcer Joel Rechlicz had been recalled from AHL Hershey simply to deal with Bourque in a more effective manner this weekend when the two teams meet again. Washington coach Dale Hunter denied that and Rechlicz has been placed on waivers anyway en route to a return to the minors. But there is clearly some simmering anger left over.
“I don’t know. Our guy’s still out,” Laich said. “I don’t think our guys are ever going to forget what happened. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s over or not. We’re going to win a hockey game. That’s the main focus. If anything else happens it happens.”
Still, the Caps must be careful here. As much as they’d love to drive Bourque “through the glass” – as Rechlicz said in a neat turn of phrase earlier this week that was not specifically directed at the Canadiens winger – they need a win, too. Avenging a fallen teammate a second time – even if they remain furious over a dirty elbow that could ruin their season – is secondary to that. Montreal’s power-play might be horrendous (NHL-worst 12.3%), but that’s no reason to play with fire on Saturday.
“You seen it through the whole league when the same thing happens where it's just that the two points are most important to us and to them,” Hunter said.
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