Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chris Bourque’s mother and sister are on vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and he thought they were going to miss his first NHL regular-season game in his hometown of Boston.

Turns out they are going to have to wait at least another five weeks for that milestone.

The Pittsburgh Penguins claimed Bourque off waivers Wednesday, two days after he thought he was going with the Washington Capitals for their season-opening contest Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden.

“I don’t even know what to say. It has been such a crazy day,” Bourque said. “My mom is probably freaking out right now because she doesn’t have any way to contact me.”

It appeared Bourque would be the team’s third-line left wing as recently as Tuesday’s practice, but Washington was over the salary cap and needed to get under by 3 p.m. Wednesday. Owner Ted Leonsis said the team is now “something like $12,800” under the cap.

Part of the problem is Washington’s inability to move Michael Nylander and his $4.875 million cap hit. Coach Bruce Boudreau said the team is continuing to talk with European clubs with the hopes of striking a deal, but Nylander will remain the team’s 13th forward against Boston.

Into Bourque’s spot on the roster will go minor league journeyman Boyd Kane, whose salary at the NHL level is $77,500 a year less than Bourque’s. In one final move to set the team’s roster for the start of the season, goaltender Michal Neuvirth was assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League.

Neuvirth lost the battle for a spot on the Caps with fellow young netminder Semyon Varlamov and veteran Jose Theodore, who said after practice Wednesday that Boudreau told him he will start against the Bruins.

For Bourque, a second-round pick by the Caps in 2004, it will be a fresh start after spending the past four seasons playing for Hershey and struggling to crack the Washington lineup.

“I told him I have good news and bad news,” Boudreau said. “The good news you’re playing in the NHL this week. The bad news is, it isn’t going to be with us.”

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