Quebec-born journeyman forward Gabriel Bourque, who began the season in the minor leagues, will don an “A” on his chest for the third consecutive game Wednesday when the Avalanche hosts the Montreal Canadiens.
Bourque, 27, is coach Jared Bednar’s second choice to replace Nathan MacKinnon as alternate captain. MacKinnon will miss his seventh game with a shoulder injury Wednesday and fellow forward Blake Comeau will miss his third straight with a lower-body injury. Comeau previously replaced MacKinnon with the “A” and Bourque has stepped into the leadership role for Comeau.
“I never really expected the A, especially after the start of this season,” Bourque said after Wednesday’s morning skate at the Pepsi Center. “It’s a big promotion and I’m pretty happy about it.”
Bourque was among Colorado’s final cuts coming out of training camp and is currently in his second call-up stint from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. He’s played 31 of 55 games for the Avs, including the last 19 straight.
“He plays the right way every day, every game, every practice,” Bednar said of Bourque, who previously was a regular contributor for the Nashville Predators. “He sacrifices his body on the penalty kill, and plays a big role in that department. As the year goes on and he starts getting in the lineup a little bit more, becomes more vocal on the bench and you listen to what he says and the respect he has from our leaders. That was the main factor for me in giving him that A. They all look up to him. They want him in the lineup. They want him on the ice. They listen to what he says. So he’s taken a leadership role whether I give him the A or not. So it just makes sense to me to put it on him when some of our guys are out of the lineup. To be honest, his game is getting better the more he plays.”
Bourque is married with two young children. The family follows the father wherever he goes, so it’s nice to settle in to an environment.
“It helps a lot when the kids are happy, and the wife, too,” Bourque said. “When you play more and more, every game you’re in the lineup, you feel better, you don’t worry, and you just play.”
Developments. The Avs on Tuesday night recalled San Antonio forward Rocco Grimaldi because forward Matt Nieto suffered an injury after practice Tuesday. With MacKinnon and Comeau shelved, Bednar needed a 13th forward in case Nieto can’t play against Montreal. Grimaldi was traveling Wednesday and didn’t make the morning skate.
To make room for Grimaldi, the Avs placed MacKinnon on injured reserve, retroactive from Jan. 30. MacKinnon could be activated as soon as Thursday.
MacKinnon and Comeau participated in the morning skate, both donning red non-contact jerseys and looking like they’re on the cusp of returning to the lineup.
Defenseman Duncan Siemens, who was recalled Tuesday from San Antonio, will be a healthy scratch for the Avs.
Footnote. The Canadiens will start Antti Niemi in goal, and he will oppose the Avs’ Semyon Varlamov.