SUN Hockey Pool

Bourque not superstitious

Flames sniper Rene Bourque — yesterday at the Dome during practice with a 'fill-in' stick — was...

Flames sniper Rene Bourque — yesterday at the Dome during practice with a 'fill-in' stick — was named the NHL's first star of the week. DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Calgary Sun

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

In one breath, Rene Bourque suggests he’s not superstitious.

In the next, the NHL's first star of the week is worrying about his hot stick and how long it might hold up before a new shipment arrives from Bauer.

“They’re on their way. They’ll be here, hopefully, as soon as they can,” Bourque said Monday after learning his six-goal, seven-point week earned him the league’s top recognition.

Trying out a sample stick he’s had sitting in his locker stall resulted in a hat-trick in Columbus Friday, so he used it again Sunday.

Two more goals followed in a big win over the San Jose Sharks. That secured his switch from his former blade design.

“I’ve only got one though, so hopefully it doesn’t break,” Bourque said with a laugh. “I’m definitely not using it in practice. I didn’t even use it in warmup (Sunday) because I was scared it was gonna break.

“Just a minor change, but it’s been working well. So I’m gonna stick with it.”

The stick switch may have played a minor role in Bourque’s magical week, in which he scored the overtime winner in Nashville before breaking out for three goals in Columbus and another pair at home against the Sharks.

Three of his goals were game-winners. One came shorthanded. He also added an assist.

But the biggest reason for his breakout after missing a couple of games with a mild concussion, is his competitive spirit.

The 6-foot-2, 213-pounder is on the brink of taking the torch from Flames captain Jarome Iginla and becoming this team’s go-to sniper.

He’s just hitting his prime at the age of 28, and the only thing that’s seemingly kept him from already reaching that elite level of marksmanship is his health — both physical and mental.

Once he realizes his potential to be this team’s top offensive weapon (and his six goals and seven points in six games this season is a great start), the Flames will be better for it.

The pressure on Iginla, who has two goals over his first eight games this season, is already lessening.

He may be considered the team’s top right-winger by default, but the day is coming you can no longer define the Flames’ top line based on who is playing with Iginla.

Thanks to Bourque’s dominance, at the moment it’s the Niklas Hagman, Olli Jokinen and Bourque combination.

Using his quick feet and big body to find or create open space, he’s been collecting passes from a variety of setup men in every situation and rifling them into opposition nets.

“He just has so much confidence right now. He’s got to keep that confidence and just build on it,” said veteran Craig Conroy, who’s been around for his pal Iginla’s best years and is now enjoying watching Bourque blossom.

“He’s a young guy and he’s got some great years ahead of him, but this really looks like this is his coming out party right now.

“He could be a 40-goal guy, maybe more.”

Fifty isn’t out of the question if he can bring the kind of energy and determination of the last week to the rest of the season.

Probably a few more NHL honours, too.

“I don’t think I’ve ever (won a weekly award),” Bourque said. “Maybe in the American League. But definitely not in the NHL.”

It’s been an annual occurrence for Iginla, who had an incredible month of November a year ago — interestingly enough when he switched sticks himself.

“I think we’re different players,” said Bourque, who may actually be more similar to the man he sits beside in the locker-room than he thinks.

A blistering and accurate shot, a net presence and the ability to change games got Iginla on the annual list as one of the league’s best forwards.

Bourque has all those traits, plus speed.

Now he just need to find consistency on a nightly basis.

And maybe that new set of sticks.

“They get pretty whippy pretty quick. I don’t know how much that one has left. We’ll see,” Bourque said. “It’s already almost broken, so it probably won’t even last through the next game.

“They say they’ll be here soon but they always tell you that.”

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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