On Saturday, the space Chris Bourque once considered a playroom finally became his official office. Bourque made his Bruins debut, fulfilling a goal he rarely considered possible.
“It’s pretty surreal right now,” Bourque said following the morning skate at TD Garden before the Bruins opened the season with a 3-1 victory over the Rangers. “I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, to play for the Bruins. Today’s finally the day it’s going to happen.
“I’m trying to soak it all in and have fun with it. I’m really excited for tonight.”
When father Ray Bourque was playing for the Bruins, Chris was doing his own kind of playing. Chris and younger brother Ryan Bourque would hit the Garden ice, then race around the dressing room when they were shooed off the sheet.
“I grew up in this locker room and the one in the building right next door that’s not here anymore,” said Bourque. “Just skating on the ice before the team, not wanting to get off, but getting kicked off when they started practice. Then coming in here, running around, and probably [upsetting] all the trainers.
“I had a lot of fun in this building. I grew up here. Me and my little brother thought we owned the place. It’s a lot different now, coming in here and playing for the team.”
Bourque didn’t rely on his name to win his spot. On the first day of camp, he skated in Benoit Pouliot’s former position on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Bourque gave his bosses no reason to try anyone else.
Bourque had a goal and two assists in Tuesday’s scrimmage at the Garden against Providence and played 12:46 against the Rangers. He has been the right-side half-boards quarterback on the No. 2 power-play unit.
They are roles he never assumed in Pittsburgh and Washington, his two previous NHL spots. For the first time in his career, Bourque broke camp with an NHL team and with specific marching orders. Those tasks — creating chances on the third line, shooting and playmaking on the power play — have helped him frame his approach.
“It’s really helpful,” Bourque said. “I’ve never really made a team out of training camp like that, where I was on a line with a certain role. It really helps me out. I know exactly what they need me to do. Now I’ll just go out there and play.
“That really helps your mind-set going into the game where you know what to expect. You’ve just got to do the things they want you to do. That’s what I’m focusing on for tonight.”
Bourque wore No. 48 to honor Hall of Famers Bobby Orr (No. 4) and Cam Neely (No. 8).
Hamilton on display
Dougie Hamilton will have five NHL games to show his stuff. When he appears in his sixth, Hamilton will burn a year off his entry-level contract, even if the Bruins return the defenseman to junior.
If Hamilton plays the way the Bruins expect, that six-game threshold will be irrelevant.
“If he’s still here, it’s because he’s good enough to play,” said coach Claude Julien. “I think you’ve got to allow players to go out there and play. Sometimes the best way is to go out there and play.
“I’d rather pull him back than have to push him. He’s got to go out there with confidence. He’s got to go out there knowing that we have the confidence in him, and just play his game.”
Hamilton was paired with Dennis Seidenberg, his regular partner during camp. Hamilton officially changed to No. 27, his number in junior. Hamilton had been wearing No. 53 in camp.
A new combination
For the first time in four seasons, the Bruins opened the season with a new goaltending tandem. Tuukka Rask started and was backed up by Anton Khudobin. Rask and Tim Thomas had been the pair since 2009-10.
“I don’t know if it’s a similar relationship,” Julien said of the partnership between Rask and Khudobin. “I know both of them get along well. Both of them know they will play at some point. There’s no way you can rely just on one with this schedule.
“It serves the purpose a lot better if you support each other and work with each other. There’s always inner competition. But the biggest thing’s got to be, ‘What’s best for the team?’
“They were very open in telling me they were going to do what’s best for the team. I would certainly believe them in that regard. I’ve known them long enough to know they’re both being honest.”
It’s possible Rask could get the first four starts. The Bruins don’t play back-to-back until Jan. 28 (at Carolina) and Jan. 29 (home vs. New Jersey).
Practice for Pandolfo
Jay Pandolfo participated in Saturday’s morning skate. He remains on his professional tryout agreement and is eligible to practice and use team facilities . . . Adam McQuaid received his final medical clearance Saturday. It was McQuaid’s first game since April 5, 2012 . . . Lane MacDermid and David Warsofsky were the healthy scratches . . . Aaron Johnson, assigned to Providence on a conditioning loan Thursday, appeared in his second straight game Saturday. Johnson is eligible to remain with Providence for 14 days. It’s possible the Bruins could recall him and assign Warsofsky once the ex-Columbus defenseman regains his game pace . . . Johnny Boychuk, who scored a goal, turned 29 Saturday . . . Boston College (Brian Boyle, Chris Kreider) and Boston University (Bourque, Warsofsky, Matt Gilroy) were well-represented.