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January 21, 2013

Boxford's Chris Bourque comfortable, confident in his Bruins debut

BOSTON — The top of the walls inside the Boston Bruins locker room are decorated with dozens of Hall of Famers that have skated wearing the spoked-B over the years.

Among them is Raymond Bourque, the team’s longest serving captain who played more than 20 years in black-and-gold and is generally regarded as one of hockey’s best-ever defensemen.

His oldest son, Chris, now has a stall of his own inside that locker room approximately 15 feet from where his father’s image looks down.

Closing in on his 27th birthday, Chris Bourque realized a dream Saturday night when he played his first game for the Boston Bruins in a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers as the National Hockey League returned after a nearly four-month lockout.

Wearing No. 48, the Boxford native seemed comfortable and confident skating the left wing on the team’s third line, assimilating nicely onto a veteran team where he is the only new forward in the mix.

“I thought it was my best game of the season in all three zones, including (the 32 AHL games he played earlier this season in) Providence,” confided Bourque.

A fast, skilled winger who has scored at every level he’s played — Bourque led the AHL in scoring a year ago with 93 points — he’s never stuck in the NHL in his two previous stints (with Washington and Pittsburgh) in large part because he’s never had a prolonged chance to show what he can do at this level. He’s hoping he’s finally found a home in Boston, a squad two years removed from a Stanley Cup and hungry to challenge for the silver chalice again in this shortened 48-game regular season.

Alongside veterans Chris Kelly at center and Rich Peverley at right wing, Bourque logged 12 minutes and 46 seconds of ice time over 18 shifts, which he figured was longer than he played in any of his previous 33 NHL games. He also skated with the Bruins’ second power play unit with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, lining up along the half-wall on both sides of the ice, and seemed to find his rhythm early on.

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