Ottawa - These are tumultuous times for Michael Ryder.
The Bonavista native is fully aware of the endless rumours surrounding his future with the Montreal Canadiens. The struggling winger knows his numbers don't come close to comparing with those of the previous two seasons. when he led the Habs with 30 goals each time.
But even with speculation floating around - he's rumoured to be headed anywhere from Boston to Calgary to the New York Rangers - and a number of recent stints in the press box as a healthy scratch, Ryder is trying to concentrate on the present and not what may lie ahead.
"I don't know what the plans are for me, but I feel all right," said Ryder in Montreal's dressing room at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place Saturday.
"I'm just trying to stay positive and it's out of my control if they decide I don't have a future here. That's their decision."
He said things have not been easy dealing with the media in hockey-mad Montreal - things are much friendlier when pucks are finding the back of the net.
"It's been (hard) for the last few months," said Ryder, who had eight goals and 10 assists entering Wednesday's game in Florida. "I keep getting the same questions and that's tough. I guess they all just want to know what's going on, too."
He's in line to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Regardless of what the future brings, Ryder - who turns 28 at the end of March and is earning US$2.95 million this season - hopes to get locked in for more than a year.
"I definitely want to sign a long-term deal, that's my goal," said Ryder, who signed a series of one-year deal with the Canadiens over the last four years. "It's pretty tough when you're not in the lineup to prove you deserve one, but if I keep working hard, I think I'll get one this summer."
There's proof he was working to improve his production. He was among the last Canadiens off the ice during the team's morning skate.
Before suiting up for Montreal's game against the Senators - a 6-1 Ottawa win - Ryder was a healthy scratch in his team's previous three contests. And he was scratched again Wednesday for Montreal's 2-1 overtime win over Florida (see page C2).
Without question, he says, being left out of the lineup is a blow to the confidence, something that can carry over to his next start.
"When you get out there (after being scratched), you might be a little more uptight, but I'm pretty good at staying mentally strong," said Ryder, reunited on a line with captain Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins. "If you're frustrated off the ice, it's going to show in your game.
"If you think too much, sometimes that can be the worst thing you can do. You just have to go and play and not think about it too much. But it's hard when you're not getting the ice time you're used to."
When times are tough, the six-foot, 192-pound Ryder can always depend on his family for encouragement.
"(My parents and family) are always supportive," Ryder said. "They just call me to say 'stay strong,' so to hear that from them is always good."
The demands of the season have also kept him away from home since the 2007-08 campaign kicked off last fall. He hasn't been back to Bonavista or to his St. John's home since the summer.
He spent the all-star break at a cottage north of Montreal with his fiancÉe. No date has been set for his wedding, but Ryder figures it will be sometime in the summer of 2009.
This summer, however, Ryder says he'll most likely take a vacation and keep working on his golf game.
Michael Ryder hopes the possibility of doubling up his family's NHL representation isn't too far off.
The Montreal Canadiens' forward is confident his brother Daniel - a Calgary Flames 'draft pick who is back in Newfoundland after leaving the organization earlier this season - will be eventually be lacing up in the bigs.
"Daniel was playing a lot and he was traded in the OHL and got a little down on himself and he needed a little break while he decides what he wants to do," Ryder said. "Now he's doing a lot better. I think he'll definitely be back playing. He's too good of a player - and he knows that - to let it go.
"It'd be cool to play against your brother or to maybe one day play with him. I play now with two brothers (Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn) so it would be great to have him in the league. He'd do well."