Samsonov clears waivers and then clears the air with Gainey, Carbonneau

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Samsonov, a major disappointment this season, looked to be back in the fold Wednesday after meeting with head coach Guy Carbonneau and GM Bob Gainey.

It isn't certain that he will be in the lineup for a game Thursday night against the Senators in Ottawa, but Carbonneau said "he"ll definitely be back in the lineup at some point.

"I never had problems with Sergei Samsonov as a man," Carbonneau added. "He's been professional.

"He always works hard. He never moans or comes to my office asking for ice time. His play wasn't up to par and that's why he missed some games, but he's a good person."

On Tuesday, the Canadiens placed Samsonov on waivers after the US$3.525-million winger said they should trade him if they're not going to play him. He was scratched a second consecutive time for Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to Carolina.

Samsonov, who will also earn $3.525 million next season, has only seven goals and 15 assists in 52 games this season.

He wasn't surprised that no team claimed him.

"There's a lot of teams pretty high on the salary cap and, with my salary and my statistics, I'd be a tough pick-up, I guess," he said.

He declined to give details of what was said in his "private" meeting with Carbonneau and Gainey. But he was on the ice for practice, skating with centre Radek Bonk and winger Guillaume Latendresse.

"We put the cards on the table," Carbonneau said of the meeting. "He cleared waivers, but Sergei remains a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

"He will stay with us. There was no question of him going to the minors. We will work with him."

Carbonneau admitted the coaches may have mishandled Samsonov, who spent most of the first half of the season on a line with Alex Kovalev that clearly wasn't working.

Samsonov has played somewhat better in recent weeks with Bonk.

"Maybe we made some mistakes with him," said Carbonneau. "He wasn't playing at the level we expected.

"We tried to match lines, but nothing connected. Maybe we should have put him with other players. Maybe we should have sat down with him to go over point by point what we expect."

Samsonov was the club's main off-season signing. The 28-year-old has averaged more than 20 goals per season in his career.

Carbonneau's ongoing experiments to get his key forwards scoring again also saw him reunite the line of Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder. It was the team's best early in the season.

"It's always tough when you switch lines and have to get used to new players," said Ryder. "We definitely have a thing going, me, Saku and Higgy. Now we just have to get it going for us to start winning."

Defenceman Andrei Markov, who missed two games with a sore knee, made the trip and may be able to play. Winger Mike Johnson was given a day off practice, but is expected to play.

Much of the practice was given over to a long talk led by assistant coach Kirk Muller, who handles penalty killing units. The Canadiens have surrendered 12 goals while shorthanded in their last six games.

Formerly best in the league, their penalty killing has dropped to 10th in the NHL at 84.1 per cent.

The Canadiens are 3-1-1 against the Senators this season, but were wiped out 8-3 on their last visit on Jan. 13.



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