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Gabriel Bourque developing reputation as a big game hero

Gabriel Bourque

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 17: Gabriel Bourque #57 of the Nashville Predators reacts after scoring a third period goal while playing the Detroit Red Wings during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on April 17, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Nashville won the game 3-1 and lead the series 3-1.(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

If there has been a single surprise player from the Detroit Red Wings-Nashville Predators series, it’s Gabriel Bourque. The 21-year-old had a solid rookie campaign with seven goals and 19 points in 43 regular season games, but he’s really stepped up in the playoffs with three goals for Nashville in four games.

“He’s been awesome for us,” teammate David Legwand said. “He plays the game the right way, hard and straightforward. That’s what you need in the playoffs.”

He’s certainly been the X-factor for the Predators the first round, providing the game-winning goal in the series opener as well as the opening goal for the Predators in Game 4 on Tuesday. That’s not bad coming from a guy who only made his NHL debut in late December.

Although, as young as Bourque is, he’s already built a reputation for being able to step up when he’s needed the most. He’s a former winner of the Guy Lafleur Trophy, which is given to the QMJHL’s most valuable player in the playoffs. He also got seven points in a single World Junior Championship game in 2010 to tie a Canadian record.

“When you’re looking at lineups, sometimes you’re looking for catalysts,” assistant GM Paul Fenton said. “He seems to be one of the catalysts that each night, each shift, he tries to make a difference no matter how much he’s playing — if it’s the fourth, fifth, sixth or eighth shift he’s out there for.”

He might be the difference again when the Predators attempt to seal their series in Game 5 on Friday.