The Montreal Canadiens and forward Rene Bourque received an unpleasant surprise Tuesday morning when tests revealed what they initially thought was a case of the flu was actually a concussion.
Bourque, 31, missed the Canadiens’ last two games and it was attributed to the flu. But when he was not feeling any better by Monday he was sent to the doctors for tests.
“I was shocked this morning when I heard the news,” Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said Tuesday after the Canadiens practiced in Toronto in preparation for Wednesday’s game against the Maple Leafs. “This weekend, we heard he was not feeling right but we thought it was just the [flu].”
Therrien said the team has no idea when Bourque sustained the concussion and neither does Bourque. The coach said it could have happened as long as a week before he came down with the symptoms taken for the flu last Saturday. Bourque is out indefinitely.
What is worrisome about Bourque is that this is not his first concussion since he came into the NHL in 2005. The last time he appears to have suffered a concussion was two and a half years ago when he missed several games while playing for the Calgary Flames.
After it looked like the NHL would finally see fewer concussions over the course of a season, the numbers started climbing in the last week or so. Bourque is the 10th player to be forced out of the lineup with a concussion or suspected concussion since Feb. 11. Also out are Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, Rick Nash of the New York Rangers, Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche, Artem Anisimov of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lennart Petrell of the Edmonton Oilers, Brendan Gallagher of the Canadiens, Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues and Ryan Carter of the New Jersey Devils.
“It’s a tough move for us,” Therrien said of Bourque, who has 10 points in 17 games playing with centre Tomas Plekanec. “He played really well since the beginning of the year. He was one of our important players.
“We’re going to miss him but you know what? It gives a chance to another guy.”
That guy is winger Brandon Prust, who moved up to Bourque’s spot on the first line for Saturday’s 3-0 win over the New York Rangers and will stay there for the game against the Maple Leafs.
The Canadiens brushed aside any notion they are seeking revenge for a 6-0 loss to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 9, a game that also saw Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty accuse Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski of biting him. They have gone 6-0-2 since that loss to move to the top of the Eastern Conference and everyone asked about revenge said they are much more interested in securing the two points for a win to stay in first place.