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|22 января 2008
Kovalev vows to do more // Montreal Gazette
Carbo reunites line of Higgins-Koivu-Ryder
Alex Kovalev has been the Canadiens' best offensive player this year, but he says he can be even better.
"I had some good opportunities in the last game, but I didn't get a good shot out of it and that's why I stayed late and worked on that so it won't happen again," Kovalev said as the Canadiens prepared to meet the Boston Bruins tonight at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., TSN, RDS, CJAD Radio-800).
"If our line combines for 10, 15 shots, they're not going to stop all of them," Kovalev said. "We have to keep working hard."
Kovalev and linemates Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn weren't alone Saturday night when the Canadiens were blanked by the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0. The Canadiens outshot the Penguins 31-26, but couldn't beat Dany Sabourin.
"I don't want to say we played badly in that game, but somehow we have to find a way to play better than we did," said Kovalev, who dismissed the trade rumours swirling around the team - he has been mentioned in some of them - by saying there's no sense in addressing trades until they are made.
Kovalev suggested that the decision to reunite the line of Christopher Higgins, Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder could be the spark the team needs as it tries to find a way to improve its 8-8-5 record on home ice.
"They're going to start playing together again and maybe they'll play better together and they'll be a successful line," Kovalev said. "If we start winning a few games, there won't be any trades."
While Higgins has played with both Ryder and Koivu over the past month, the three have not been together with the exception of the odd shift on the power play. Coach Guy Carbonneau said it wasn't a case of punishing Sergei Kostitsyn by taking him off the top line, but rather an attempt to jump-start Koivu and Higgins. Koivu has three goals in his last 27 games, while Higgins has three goals in his last 19 games.
"We have to figure out a way to get some offence out of that line," said Carbonneau, who moved the younger Kostitsyn to a line with Bryan Smolinski and Steve
B?gin, who has been out since Dec. 6 with a shoulder injury.
He'll make a decision on the fourth line this morning, but it appears Guillaume Latendresse and Maxim Lapierre have spots, with the final choice between Mathieu Dandenault and Tom Kostopoulos at right wing.
Kovalev said the Canadiens have improved in several key
areas this season, but winning at home hasn't been one of them. The Bruins might provide the cure for that particular ill. The Canadiens have an eight-game winning streak against Boston. They have a 5-0 edge this season, with two of those wins at the Bell Centre.
"I think the reason I came back here this year is that I always believed this team can be successful," Kovalev said. "We've played better hockey, but I believe we've held back a little.
"We've played better 5-on-5, our power play (is good) and we've started playing better on the (penalty-kill). The last things we have left is to play better at home and play better in the second period. We still have enough games to fix that."
The one thing Carbonneau won't change tonight is the defence. That means Patrice Brisebois will continue to nurse his sore left foot.
He's practising, but he's not 100 per cent and went for an MRI after practice yesterday.
After tonight's game, the Canadiens are in New Jersey Thursday for their final game before the all-star break.