Habs hold plenty of questions, not many answers

CanWest News Service
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NHL PLAYOFFS/EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

Dire circumstances call for dire measures. And so, the Montreal Canadiens held a 45-minute - at least - team meeting Wednesday, before head coach Jacques Martin met the media and tried to put a positive spin on his team's predicament.

Montreal trails its Eastern Conference final series against Philadelphia 2-0 heading into tonight's third game at the Bell Centre.

Montreal Canadiens' coach Jacques Martin listens to a question during a press conference at the team's practice facility in Brossard, Que., on Wednesday. The Canadiens trail the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0 heading into Game 3 of their best-of-seven NHL Easter

Montreal -

Dire circumstances call for dire measures. And so, the Montreal Canadiens held a 45-minute - at least - team meeting Wednesday, before head coach Jacques Martin met the media and tried to put a positive spin on his team's predicament.

Montreal trails its Eastern Conference final series against Philadelphia 2-0 heading into tonight's third game at the Bell Centre.

A Canadiens team that has failed to score even one goal against Michael Leighton on 58 shots must now attempt to win four of the next five games. The task is onerous, as Martin and his players well concede.

"We understand the dilemma and are confident we'll overcome it," said Martin, more demonstrative and animated than normal. "We've played our last three games on the road, but we've earned the right to be here. It's not going to be easy. It's a big task."

The Habs trailed Washington 3-1 in the opening series, but won three consecutive games to advance against Pittsburgh. The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, meantime, held a 3-2 advantage but failed to win another game.

"I have a lot of confidence in these players," Martin said. "A lot (in the media) weren't too optimistic after the fourth game against Washington. I think we've overcome adversity in the past several times. (In Game 3 tonight), we can't just focus on a goal. We have to focus on the process. I'm confident we'll have better results."

The Habs realize they must improve their special teams. Montreal has failed to score on eight power-play opportunities and has allowed four short-handed Flyers goals.

But there are plenty of offensive forwards struggling five-on-five, too.

Tomas Plekanec hasn't scored in 10 games. Scott Gomez is goalless in his last 15 and has taken three penalties, two which resulted in game-winning power-play goals for the Flyers.

Michael Cammalleri, the team's leading playoff scorer with 12, has six shots and one goal in his past three games.

Andrei Kostitsyn has just three assists in the 14 games since his three-goal, one-assist effort in Game 2 versus Washington. Benoit Pouliot has two assists in 16 games, which probably explains his being scratched Tuesday in favour of winger Sergei Kostitsyn, who had been benched for 10 consecutive matches. Kostitsyn remained at home on occasion and wasn't even allowed into team practises.

Sergei Kostitsyn was among seven players - goaltender Carey Price along with skaters Pouliot, Mathieu Darche, Glen Metropolit, Ryan O'Byrne and Ben Maxwell - participated in an optional skate on Wednesday.

Kostitsyn, who played eight shifts totalling slightly less than five minutes, was asked about his level of frustration on Wednesday, given his ability to score and the Canadiens' dearth of offence.

He stood silent for what seemed like an eternity, said something to an interpreter who answered back, and then the player finally responded: "I don't know." He confirmed he understood the question. A potential restricted free agent, Kostitsyn said he wants to remain with Montreal.

Martin's supposed reluctance to dress O'Byrne, a six-foot-five defenceman who weighs 234 pounds and could help in the physical department, has also been scrutinized.

Martin refused to explain or defend his decisions, as usual. He went on to suggest any potential roster moves will be decided today.

One decision Martin won't have to make is whether Andrei Markov will play.

Markov had surgery Wednesday to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will be out of the lineup for six months. The defenceman was hurt in the first game of the series against the Penguins on April 30.

Organizations: Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Bell Centre Flyers Martin's

Geographic location: Montreal, Washington, Pittsburgh

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