Habs ponder weak offence, bad penalties

Veteran defenceman Roman Hamrlik said the team was too relaxed and taking too many penalties....

Veteran defenceman Roman Hamrlik said the team was too relaxed and taking too many penalties. (Sebastien St-Jean/QMI AGENCY)

JEAN-PHILIPPE BERTRAND, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:25 PM ET

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens held a players meeting instead of a practice Thursday in an attempt to inject life into an offence that is ranked 27th in the NHL in goals per game.

The Habs have fallen out of first place in the Northeast Division and are 5-4-1 in their past 10 games, following a 5-2 loss Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre.

Veteran defenceman Roman Hamrlik said the team was too relaxed and taking too many penalties.

"We talked about the lack of offensive production, the lack of discipline of some players and the importance of having better mental preparation," Hamrlik said at the team's practice facility near Montreal.

Mental lapses were of particular concern. Forward Benoit Pouliot was whistled for three minor penalties that helped to ignite the Penguins, who scored four of their five goals on the power play.

"It was a problem during our disastrous (seven-game December) trip and again, it came back to haunt us Wednesday night," forward Mathieu Darche said. "Not only are we giving up goals, but we're breaking our own rhythm on offence."

The Habs are averaging just 2.46 goals a game. Only the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators have been weaker.

Hamrlik says injuries have weakened the power play.

"The absence of (defencemen) Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov is hurting us," he said. "The contribution of Markov on the power play was invaluable."

Also, forwards Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn seem to have run out of gas. Kostitsyn has only scored once in his past 19 games. An intestinal virus has knocked Cammalleri out of the past two games and he didn't make the team meeting Thursday.

It's not known if he'll dress for Saturday's game against the New York Rangers.


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