SUN Hockey Pool

Samsonov fourth-liner in name only

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Two points, including a sensational assist in Columbus.

A sensational goal in Minnesota.

And a goal in practice yesterday that put everything else to shame.

Not bad for a fourth liner.

"It's nerve-wracking at first, coming to a new team. And you have to jump right into the game when you're thinking about tons of other things," said the former Bruin, who looks at home through two starts.

"But once you get out on the ice and get in the lockerroom with the guys you feel more comfortable every day."

Now if only they could move him a little higher up the depth chart.

To be fair, he's a fourth liner in name only - despite starting his first two games with Georges Laraque and Rem Murray, he's been spotted in all over, averaging 17 minutes, more than any other forward who isn't involved in penalty killing.And he's been productive. But he's an elite guy who needs steady linemates.

"I said it before, it doesn't matter where I play," said Samsonov. "I'm sure coach tries to find combinations that work. Until that time it's probably going to be like that. I don't mind it at all, it's just a matter of time, I'm sure."

To get Samsonov in his element, playing permanent left wing on one of the first two lines, Craig MacTavish would have to demote Ryan Smyth or Raffi Torres (on a three-game point scoring streak) or have them play the wrong wing and demote someone else - Ales Hemsky or Radek Dvorak.

"When you add elements at this time of year, the chemistry doesn't instantly appear," said the coach. "You're trying to see who suits his skill set best, but yeah, we want to give him some more consistency in his linemates.

"He's not that comfortable playing centre or right wing. I like the way Raffi has played. Smytty is capable of playing the right side. That's a move we've been using. It's a juggling act and it can be disruptive on the bench, but up until this point the players have handled it well.

"So far it hasn't been a problem because he's really making things happen for us."

WAKE-UP CALLS: Someone asked MacTavish if seeing themselves in ninth place yesterday morning was the shock to the system they needed to wake them up.

"We don't need any more shocks to the system," he said.

"We've had enough shocks to the system. What we need is a good, solid win."

Getting it tonight won't be easy, against Minnesota, which can pull to within three points with a win.

"The next win is maybe the toughest win we'll have all year," he said. "We have to make sure we come out with everybody's best effort. We've challenged all the players to do it and help each other over that obstacle."


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