Canadiens Bourque looking for lost scoring touch, hopes to return to lineup

BROSSARD, Que. – Rene Bourque doesn’t need a chat with Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien to know what he has to do on the ice.

The 32-year-old left-winger must start scoring goals, the sooner the better.

Bourque was without a point in 13 games when Therrien left him out of the lineup for a 5-3 loss in Toronto. He has one point, a goal Dec. 2 against New Jersey, in his last 20 games.

“Not good, obviously,” he said Monday. “It’s been a tough year.

“I’ve been good some games and some games I haven’t. I had a feeling (being a healthy scratch) might be coming some time and it happened Saturday. He doesn’t have to say anything. I know what it’s about. I have to pick up my play and get better.”

Bourque has had his moments in recent games, including two goals that were disallowed. He had six shots in a game last week against the Devils. But his season totals in 36 games remains a disappointing six goals and one assist.

The Canadiens felt they were getting a goalscorer Jan. 12, 2012 when they traded Michael Cammalleri, goalie prospect Karri Ramo and a fifth-round pick to the Calgary Flames for Bourque, forward prospect Patrick Holland and a 2013 second-round selection that turned out to be Halifax Mooseheads goalie Zach Fucale.

But Bourque, who had consecutive 27-goal campaigns in 2009-’10 and 2010-’11, saw his production plummet as soon as he got to Montreal.

In the season of the trade, he played 38 games each for Calgary and Montreal, but scored 13 times for the Flames and only five for the Canadiens.

He picked up seven goals in 27 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season but is still struggling to find the net. In 101 games as a Canadien, he has 18 goals and 10 assists.

He dismisses the notion that playing under Therrien’s puck-pressure system doesn’t suit his style.

“Every team plays basically the same,” he said. “My game is forechecking, banging bodies down low and trying to get the puck to the net. I haven’t been doing enough of that.”

The Canadiens could use it as they’ve had little scoring from their third and fourth lines of late.

“I just have to be more aggressive, be more confident with the puck, challenge defencemen one on one,” said the six-foot-two, 212-pound Bourque. “But hopefully, it’s a wake-up call and I get back to playing my game and producing.”

Bourque signed a six-year contract in 2010 that has a cap hit of US$3.3 million per season, although it pays only $2.5 million next year and in 2015-’16.

It appears he will be back in the lineup when the Canadiens hit the road for games Wednesday in Pittsburgh and Friday in Detroit.

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He practised on the third line with Daniel Briere and Michael Bournival.

Another left-winger, Travis Moen, left practice early with a lower-body injury but it was not known if it will keep him from playing.

The Canadiens recalled forward Louis Leblanc from AHL Hamilton, where the 2009 first-round pick had nine goals and 11 assists in 36 games. He had no points in five games with Montreal earlier in the season.

Defenceman Douglas Murray (lower body) and Raphael Diaz (flu) returned after sitting out Saturday.

The Canadiens called up 2011 first-round pick Nathan Beaulieu for the game in Toronto, sent him back to AHL Hamilton, then called him up again Sunday.

The 21-year-old had a decent game against the Leafs and hopes his NHL stay will be longer this time. He has been working on play in his own zone this season.

“They wanted me to go back and play big minutes and work on my defensive side,” said Beaulieu, who played six games in Montreal last season. “I took a lot of pride in it.

“That’s what got me here, playing hard and smart and doing the little things right.”

Beaulieu was mostly an offensive defenceman while winning a Memorial Cup with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Now he wants to make an impact at both ends of the ice.

“It’s gone well,” he said. “It took a lot more time than I thought or hoped it would, but I feel I’ve finally figured it out.

“Maturity was a big thing on the ice. I always want to be on offence and help from the back end but taking more pride in my zone and having fun while doing it was a big thing. I learned it’s a lot easier when you take pride in it.”

The practice also saw goalie Carey Price try out the new red, white and black CCM equipment he will use at the Sochi Olympics.

“It felt pretty good,” he said. “It started to make things a little more real, I guess.

“I don’t know if every goalie will have their countries’ colours but fortunately for us we play in a market where we have companies that are willing to give us equipment. So, might as well support it.”

Asked how long it will take to break in the new gear, Price said: “Four or five times in practice, throw it in the steam room a couple of times, and we’ll be good to go.”

All that was missing was his Olympic mask, which he said is still being worked on.