Sergei out of line

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Judging by the local media frenzy here, the Montreal Canadiens' situation seems to be as messy as a gooey plate of poutine.

You would never guess by all the fuss that the Habs are off to one of their best starts in recent memory, going 5-2-2 entering tonight's matchup against the Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.

The talk of Montreal is the status of forward Sergei Samsonov, whose agent, Neil Abbott, hinted earlier this week that his client might have to look for greener pastures after being demoted to the fourth line.

Pressed on the issue yesterday, Samsonov, who signed a two-year, $7.05-million US deal with the Canadiens during the summer, set the record straight.

Sidestepping any talk that he might seek a trade, Samsonov told reporters he would like to remain a Hab and make a significant contribution to the team's potential playoff run.

"My first priority now is to stay with the Canadiens," he said. "I'm here for two years and I'm looking forward to it, but then again, if things are not working out, we'll see where it takes us.

"It's way too early to say anything. We just have to go through the process. It's a new team, new linemates, and I'm sure it's new for coach (Guy Carbonneau), too. We're just going to have to work through it."

Samsonov's stance seems to have softened after he surprisingly was elevated to the third line alongside Radek Bonk and ex-Leaf Mike Johnson for the Canadiens' 3-2 win over the Bruins in Boston Thursday.

FIRST GAME IN BOSTON

Samsonov was playing his first game in Beantown since being traded to the Edmonton Oilers last March. Carbonneau rewarded the enigmatic winger by putting him out for the opening faceoff.

"It was a big game for me," Samsonov said. "I played there a long time, so it was nice of coach to put me in the starting lineup."

Carbonneau said he was more disturbed with Samsonov's comments, not his actions. Samsonov suggested earlier in the week that a player earning his impressive salary was being wasted on the fourth line.

"He has to understand we gave him the money to be here two years, not two weeks or two months," Carbonneau said.

Samsonov has two goals and two assists in nine games.


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