Sergei out, Andrei in Habs doghouse as Kostitsyn brothers struggle

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MONTREAL - When backup goalie Carey Price, dripping with sweat, got to the Montreal dressing room after staying on late at the team's game-day skate with others who won't start Game 3 of their playoff series against Pittsburgh, fresh-looking Sergei Kostitsyn was walking by.

''Why weren't you on the ice?'' an angry Price asked Kostitsyn, who also won't play.

Kostitsyn mumbled something and kept walking, and Price called after him ''too good?''

The little incident underlined the tough times the Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei and Andrei, are going through.

Sergei has not played since Game 5 of the first round against Washington. Andrei has played, but was dropped down to the fourth line in Game 2 of the East Conference semifinal against the Penguins on Sunday. After being on the ice for Pittsburgh's only goal, he got only 1:43 of ice time and didn't play at all in the final two periods.

Andrei Kostitsyn had three goals and three assists in Montreal's first nine playoff games, but four of those points came in one game?Game 2 against Washington, a 6-5 loss in overtime.

But coach Jacques Martin hasn't given up on his strong, gifted winger who sometimes looks uninvolved on the ice.

''I really believe he's a player that's going to help us, who we need,'' said Martin. ''No different from some other players.

''Whether through the first round or some time during the season, they at times struggled. I give an example ... Maxim Lapierre, where there was a lot of frustration, especially after the season he had last year, and now he's playing some tremendous hockey for us. With Andrei, we have some ups and downs, but I'm confident he'll bounce back and help us.''

Andrei had 13 goals and 21 assists in 60 games this season and normally plays right wing on a top scoring line with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri.

Sergei is another matter. He spent most of the first two months of the season in the minors and ended up with seven goals and 11 assists in 47 games. Andrei missed playing for Belarus at the Olympics with an injury.

Sergei is a restricted free agent at the end of the season but isn't expected to be back. Andrei has another year on his contract at US$3.25 million.


NO MARKOV: Martin said top defenceman Andrei Markov, who left Game 1 in Pittsburgh with a an apparent knee injury, is out ''indefinitely.'' reports Tuesday said Markov has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will likely miss the rest of the post-season.

The Canadiens were already without blue-liner Paul Mara, who is gone for the season, while defenceman Jaroslav Spacek has not played since Game 3 against Washington due to a virus. Spacek has been skating with his teammates, but Martin said there was ''no update'' on his condition.


FOND MEMORIES: Penguins star Sidney Crosby recalled his first game against the Canadiens, the team he grew up cheering for in Cole Harbour, N.S.

It was Jan. 3, 2006. The then-18-year-old scored twice in a 6-4 victory over Montreal.

''I remember coming out on the ice and I remember my first goal,'' he said. ''It was a two-on-one on (Jose) Theodore.

''It was pretty special. I was happy just to be here. It was a dream come true. To get my first goal was a lot of fun.''

On Tuesday night, Crosby was slated to play his first playoff game in Montreal, but he said the excitement has calmed a little over the years.

''Just being happy to be here, that feeling changes pretty quickly,'' he said. ''You're on the road. It's an environment that's pretty hostile. It's loud. It's a challenge. So I think you focus according to that.''

After that game in 2006, Crosby had no goals and five assists and was minus-4 in his next seven visits to the Bell Centre.



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