"He has come in here and really made a terrific impression on the way he plays the game."
Bourdon, a 22-year-old defenseman, averaged roughly 13 minutes and 39 seconds of ice time through his first five NHL games. His minutes have climbed steadily, reaching a season-high of 19:32 last night against Chicago after skating 18:29 in Monday's Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.
He even received a crack at the power play after Kimmo Timonen left last night's game early because of an injury, and registered a game-high five hits.
"His head is up, he is physical, he skates well," Laviolette said. "It's gotten to a point now where his minutes are pushing 20 on a nightly basis."
Yes, this is the same Bourdon - a third-round pick in 2008 - who was sent to the distant ECHL last year for 15 games after sustaining a concussion.
When Bourdon made his NHL debut on Nov. 21 with Phantoms teammate Marshall, he was only expecting to play three or four games while Chris Pronger nursed an "illness" and Braydon Coburn was dealing with a bruised back.
At that point, Bourdon was below Matt Walker, Oskars Bartulis, Gustafsson and maybe even Marshall on the depth chart. Gustafsson, 23, was the first call-up due to injury but injured his wrist on Nov. 5.
Just 4 days after Bourdon was recalled, Andreas Lilja went down with a severe high ankle sprain, which kept him out of the lineup for 10 days.
Since Nov. 21, Bourdon has played 19 straight games. He has outlasted Gustafsson and Marshall, both of whom have been sent back to Adirondack. Walker has been a healthy scratch for every game except for one since being recalled on Dec. 3, and it wasn't at the expense of Bourdon.
"I never thought I'd get these minutes right now," Bourdon said. "But I never lost faith. I knew I was capable of playing in this league, I knew I had the abilities to do it, too. But sometimes you need a break. And sometimes, people never get a chance. But I kept believing. It made me realize that I had to change some stuff."
Last summer, Bourdon changed his eating and sleeping habits to get in better shape. He stopped eating bread and pasta. He started going to bed earlier, deciding to turn off his laptop or the TV by around 11 p.m. He devoted himself to getting at least 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night, when his schedule allowed.
Bourdon said the changes made a "huge difference" in his energy level. It's shown on ice, where Bourdon has made his mark as a hard-hitting, confident puck mover. Those traits have turned Bourdon into a mainstay on the blue line in just a month and a half.
"I think I'm lucky for the opportunity I got, but I think I've made the best out of it," Bourdon said. "I wouldn't say I've pushed everyone aside and I'm here. There's other good players, they're working hard and they're pushing. They're ready to take my spot. It's an everyday business. Hockey changes fast and anything can happen. I need to keep going."