Hopefully Canadiens forward Rene Bourque has made some friends on his new club because he is likely to have a big target on his back this evening.
Set to play in his second game with Montreal, Bourque will be facing the Capitals for the first time since he injured Washington center Nicklas Backstrom two weeks ago with an elbow that drew a suspension from the league.
The 30-year-old was skating with the Calgary Flames on Jan. 3 in Washington when he delivered a blow to the head of Backstrom, an incident that drew a two-minute penalty and subsequent five-game suspension from the league.
The Capitals would have had to wait until next season to face Bourque again, but his trade to the Canadiens last Thursday in a deal that sent Mike Cammalleri to Calgary set up this rematch.
Bourque said he is expecting some payback tonight from the visiting Caps, who have played the past six games without Backstrom and his team-leading 42 points.
"I obviously don't feel good about what I did and I apologized for it, but I'm sure they'll be a few guys probably coming after me [Wednesday]," Bourque told Montreal's official website. "It's part of the game and I just need to be prepared for it. I know guys will be looking to make sure they finish their checks against me."
The winger had served the first four contests of his ban prior to the trade and sat out Montreal's shootout loss to Ottawa on Saturday before making his debut the following night in a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. Bourque had three shots in nearly 21 minutes of ice time, while Max Pacioretty led the way with two goals and an assist.
"We felt good for the past couple of games and we were waiting to have a game like this," Pacioretty said. "Hopefully we can keep it going."
Peter Budaj made 28 saves in his first start since Dec. 21, while Carey Price will return to the starting role tonight between the pipes after the breather.
The Capitals can't be too focused on Bourque tonight after getting shut out for the first time this season on Tuesday, a 3-0 loss to the visiting Islanders. Tomas Vokoun made 25 saves for Washington, which failed to post a perfect four-game homestand following its third loss in 10 games.
Vokoun became the first Washington goaltender to make 10 straight starts since Olie Kolzig's 16-game run from Oct. 17-Nov. 22, 2003 and has been key for a Washington club that was winning despite getting outworked on offense.
"We've got to start outshooting some teams," said Capitals forward Brooks Laich. "We're giving up 30, 35 ... shots a game, which is too many. Just the law of averages. We've got great goaltending, but the law of averages is going to catch up to you."
Washington was 12-9-1 when it decided to fire head coach Bruce Boudreau and has posted an identical mark since Dale Hunter took over. That has the Caps eighth overall in the Eastern Conference but only a point behind the Panthers for first place in the Southeast Division.
The Capitals are set to play three straight and six of their next seven on the road, where they have lost five of their past six. However, they are 3-0-1 in their past four trips to Montreal and 9-2-2 versus the Habs in the past 13 encounters overall.