It's one thing to be in a fight with three other players for the last roster spot on a National Hockey League club.
It's quite another thing, said Chris Bourque, when two of those three players are good friends of yours.
That's the situation that the 25-year-old Bourque finds himself in as he battles to make the Washington Capitals' opening night roster. After a year away from North American hockey, the Boxford native is back and doing everything within his power to stick in the NHL for good.
"It's pretty tight competition," said Bourque, a winger with 33 games of NHL experience, including 13 with the Caps. "It's a good, fun competition, but at the same time you're fighting for the last spot in camp.
"The fact that I'm going against a couple of buddies that I've played with in Hershey (the Capitals' minor league affiliate in Pennsylvania) just adds another element to it. You hope your friend does well — but at the same time, you're trying to get that spot instead of him."
In an exhibition game Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Bourque skated with those two friends who are also battling for that elusive roster spot: Mathieu Perreault and Cody Eakin. Together they combined for six points, with Bourque assisting on all three Washington goals in a 3-1 win.
Bourque and Perreault spent much of two seasons skating on a line together for the Hershey Bears, guiding the team to a pair of Calder Cup championships. "We have good chemistry together," Bourque said. He also spent time skating with Eakin in the AHL.
Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau told The Washington Post after Monday's contest that the entire line played well, did their assignments as asked and were responsible defensively.