GLENS FALLS -- When the Philadelphia Flyers called up Marc-Andre Bourdon just before Thanksgiving, they told him to bring enough clothes for five days. Hopefully, someone thought to send the rest, or else he must have spent a fortune at the laundromat.
Bourdon ended up staying in the NHL for three months. For a guy struggling just to revive his AHL career this time last year, the realization of a dream that had gone off course meant more than the trappings of NHL life.
"We have all the best — the best restaurants, the best hotels, everything. But what was really nicer for me was when you reach your goal in life, you feel proud about yourself," Bourdon said.
Once more Bourdon is a member of the Adirondack Phantoms. The 22-year-old defenseman will play his first game with the Phantoms since Nov. 20 when they kick off another three-in-three weekend at Rochester on Friday night. They play in Binghamton on Saturday before returning home to play Syracuse on Sunday.
Bourdon, who earned good reviews from management during his 39-game stint with Philadelphia, became the odd man out when the Flyers acquired veteran defensemen Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina last week to gear up for the playoffs.
"I understand where they’re going with that, like (Kubina) played nearly 1,000 games in the NHL. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think I could have done the job. I absolutely think I would have," Bourdon said. "I respect the decision, but I’m going to keep working hard here to get back there whenever I can."
Bourdon returns to an Adirondack team much different than the one he left. Suddenly, he’s an elder statesman.
Of the players he broke in with three years ago, few are left, including his longtime roommate Kevin Marshall. With last week’s departure of Jon Kalisnki, no one on the active roster has played more games for Adirondack than Bourdon.
All that means bigger things will be expected from him. In Thursday’s practice, Bourdon was paired with Erik Gustafsson, another player with NHL experience. Phantoms coach Joe Paterson said he’d use them in a shutdown role against opponent’s top lines.
Bourdon was known as a defenseman with an offensive upside when he entered the league. Paterson doesn’t want to see that element of his game disappear, but believes his time with the Flyers contributing as more of a stay-at-home, net-front presence is Bourdon’s key to long-term success.
"I think he has to continue to play how he did up there. He’s always going to be a guy that’s a very good defensive defenseman, a big-bodied guy. That’s his trademark, so he has to play that down here," Paterson said. "If he comes down here and thinks he’s going to be a little more offensive here in terms of being up on the rush all the time, that’s only going to hurt him. We’re not saying he can’t be creative at the right time and he’s got a good point shot, but he’s got to play an all-around game for us."
That Bourdon played more in the NHL this season than Gustafsson and Marshall would have been unthinkable last year.
Bourdon slipped behind them on the depth chart and then suffered a concussion during a fight on New Year’s Day. That injury limited him to 46 games last season and he ended up spending some time in the ECHL.
But he came back to Adirondack a leaner, faster player. And when injuries on the Flyers gave a chance for the Phantoms’ defensemen to move up, it was Bourdon who best seized the chance.
"It’s been a tough road, but I never gave up," Bourdon said.
Loose pucks: Defenseman Matt Walker skated for the fourth straight day on Thursday. He’s cleared to return after missing nine games with a lower-body injury. ... Forward Mike Testwuide and defensemen Blake Kessel and Oskars Bartulis remain out this weekend. Of the three, Kessel appears closest to a return, possibly as early as next week.