Young winger no flash in the pan

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Saku Koivu has seen his fair share of wingers disappear after promising debuts on his flank.

Chris Higgins, Guillaume Latendresse and Sergei Kostitsyn, for example, have essentially vanished from the fantasy radar, with the latter pair sitting in the press box the past couple of weeks and Higgins trying his luck on the second line these days.

Whether or not newcomer Matt D'Agostini has staying power remains to be seen, but goals in four straight games -- including a breakaway marker last night against the Flames -- after a scoreless debut is giving people in Montreal hope.

"Playing on the first line right now is pretty special -- I'll try not to screw it up," said the 22-year-old who was recalled from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs late last month.

"It feels good. Kind of a little overwhelming right now, but it's been good so far. I've banged in a couple of ugly ones and have been getting a couple of bounces. Hopefully, I can keep it going."

So does Habs head coach Guy Carbonneau.

"Time will tell," he said. "We want to make sure he's not a flash in the pan."

D'Agostini showed enough potential with the Bulldogs to get the call, and his 14 goals in the minors helped Carbonneau decide where to play him.

Right beside Koivu on the top line.

"I always believe that if you've got to bring someone up that can score goals, you should put them in a position that he's got that chance," said Carbonneau, who again played D'Agostini with Koivu and Andrei Kostitsyn against the Flames.

"Being a right-handed shot and being a shooter, primarily, he fit right there. And it works.

"I hope it keeps going."

His last couple of games with the Bulldogs were spent alongside former Calgary Hitmen star Ryan White. The two were clicking before D'Agostini was snatched away.

"He's been doing well. Really well," said D'Agostini. "He's a good player. He's only 20 now and he's already having success. I'm sure we'll see him up here any day now."

Well, maybe not quite that soon, but the two could comprise two thirds of a line in the NHL in the not-too-distant future.

In the meantime, D'Agostini's getting a head start on the pressure of playing with a star such as Koivu.

"A little nervous. A little anxious. Just kind of excited to get going," he said of his first game. "Eventually the butterflies go away and you start playing hockey."

D'Agostini knows what's at stake.

"It feels good, the coach showing some confidence to put me with guys like that," said D'Agostini. "I've just got to prove that I can play with them and stay there."


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