Bourque still trying to shake effort questions

Back in November, when the Ottawa Senators were visiting Calgary, Kelly Hrudey took aim at Flames forward Rene Bourque from his Hockey Night in Canada pulpit.

MONTREAL — Back in November, when the Ottawa Senators were visiting Calgary, Kelly Hrudey took aim at Flames forward Rene Bourque from his Hockey Night in Canada pulpit.

Bourque had only five points in 16 games and Hrudey thought it was time Bourque started to play.

Among some of his more pointed criticisms:

“His passion-meter, it’s not low on a scale of one to 10, it’s turned off.”

“This guy, I don’t even think he cares about the game. He should apologize to his teammates and start playing. He’s got 66 games … to actually care.”

“He could be a top-10 scorer. If he didn’t have talent, I wouldn’t be mad.”

It didn’t matter that Hrudey was right. The criticism created a firestorm in the Flames’ dressing room, and it predictably stung Bourque.

“I definitely wasn’t happy about it,” he said at the time.

“I guess everybody’s entitled to their opinion. I definitely don’t agree with the things he said. Next time I see him, I’ll talk to him about it and see why he was thinking that.

“I definitely don’t agree with him going on national TV to rip me like that. I know the guy, see him around the rink once in a while, he’s always nice. But for him to say that about me? I didn’t agree with it at all.”

Since then, Bourque’s game has picked up, but not by much. He got 11 points in his next 22 games for a total of 13 goals and three assists in 38 games before he was traded to the Canadiens on Thursday in a deal that also involved Mike Cammalleri. Bourque becomes the ninth-highest scorer on the Canadiens.

He didn’t play on Saturday against the Senators because he was sitting out the final game of a five-game suspension, but he took part in the morning skate and then faced the Montreal media.

Not surprisingly, he was asked about his inconsistency. It could be troublesome in Montreal if it persists. That’s just what Montreal fans need — another part-time player.

Bourque tried to reassure them.

“I’m working on it every game. I have to get better every game,” he said. “This is a fresh start for me here, it’s a clean slate. I’m looking to shed that reputation, I guess.”

Interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth now inherits the task that Calgary coach Brent Sutter had — lighting the fire under Bourque.

“My job will be to remind him every game to get into those tough areas,” Cunneyworth said. “That’s where he does his damage. He’s obviously not afraid to go there. My job is to remind him to go there every game and every shift.”

Whether Cunneyworth has any success in getting Bourque there will determine whether this trade is a success or a flop.

a surprise all around

While Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier said the this week’s trade had been in the works for weeks, Bourque said he hadn’t heard a whisper of it.

Bourque was just as surprised as Cammalleri, who was told during a game that he’d been traded.

“I was on my way to the rink for the game (against Anaheim) and I heard Cammy had been pulled off the ice,” Bourque said Saturday morning.

“I was on the bike to do a workout for the first period and one of the guys came to get me, and I knew right away that it was probably for that reason. So, yeah, it was pretty surprising.”

GOMEZ RETURNS

Another target of the Montreal fans, underachieving centre Scott Gomez, returned to the lineup against the Senators after missing 21 games with a groin injury.

He was, not surprisingly, relieved. “I’m going to try and bring whatever I can, whether it’s on the bench or on the ice, just pumping guys up or whatever I can do,” he said.

“We all know the situation we’re in, and the time is now to do something about it. We’re in this all together and hopefully things start turning around. We lost a good teammate (Mike Cammelleri), but at the same time we’re getting a great guy coming in here. It’s a tough part of the business and starting today we’ve got other things to worry about and that’s picking up points. We all still believe we can make it into the playoffs here.”

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