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Andrei answers the bell

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – Andrei Kostitsyn’s English might still be a work progress, but the message from his head coach was heard loud and clear.

Suffering through a tough start to the season and called out by Guy Carbonneau only 24 hours earlier, Kostitsyn flashed some of the brilliance that made him one of the Habs' brightest stories last season. Coming into the night with an uncharacteristic seven points in his first 20 games, Kostitsyn picked up a goal and an assist to lead the Canadiens over the Sabres.

“I thought Andrei played one of his better games of the season,” said Carbonneau. “I like the way he responded tonight. He got involved along the boards and in the corners and he got more shots at the net. He scored once, but he could’ve gotten a few others as well. He even played the point for us on our 5-on-3 advantage. ”

Who better than All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov to evaluate Kostitsyn’s debut on the blue line with the man advantage?

“I think it went well. It was a good experience,” said power-play specialist Andrei Markov. “Andrei has a really good shot and he used it well on that power play. It’s just to bad we didn’t end up scoring on it.”

Steve Begin was also singing Kostitsyn’s praises following his breakout night, which included a pretty solo effort that saw him lift a nifty backhand past Patrick Lalime.

“He played his best game of the season,” said Begin, who took his coach’s evalution one step further. “He gave a second and third effort out there. We know what he can do. He got back to his good habits and the results speak for themselves.”

While Kostitsyn’s production may have some hockey poolers pulling their hair out, quiet starts are nothing new to the gifted Belarusian winger.

On his way to putting up a career-best 26 goals and 53 points last season, Kostitsyn caught fire only once his little brother was called up on December 13. If anything, elder Kostitsyn is ahead of schedule by a couple of weeks.

Manny Almela is a writer for

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