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The other AK is ready to fly

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Former Habs top pick begins to live up to his great potential

Andrei Kostitsyn celebrates one of his three assists with Christopher Higgins Tuesday night .

MONTREAL - Just because not all high draft picks are able to make the immediate jump to the NHL as a teenager like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Guillaume Latendresse doesn't mean they can't become impact players. Just ask Andrei Kostitsyn.

The Canadiens' top pick, 10th overall, at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Kostitsyn has been given another opportunity to dazzle Guy Carbonneau and the Belarussian winger is making the most of it.

With three assists in a crucial 5-3 win over the Islanders, Kostitsyn looked like a player with no intent of ever being sent back down to the AHL.

"It's a good feeling to help the team and to get a chance to show what I can do," said Kostitsyn, who logged 16:49 of ice-time against New York. "Getting the chance to play on the power-play and get more ice-time shows me the team has confidence in me."

Kostitsyn's breakthrough performance against the Islanders came on a night that saw the 21-year-old skate alongside Tomas Plekanec and Christopher Higgins.

"I've played with Pleky before and we've always been comfortable together," added Kostitsyn, who also teamed-up on a line with Plekanec in Hamilton.

Higgins is another player in the Habs' dressing room who is all too aware of what Kostitsyn can bring to the table.

"Andrei is just loaded with talent and I've seen that for himself," admitted Higgins, who also played with Kostitsyn in Hamilton with the Bulldogs. "Hopefully a game like [Tuesday] can be a breakout for him."

Higgins isn't the only one crossing his fingers that this may only be the beginning for Kostitsyn.

"He's shown flashes of what he can do and there have been some promising signs in his play," said Carbonneau. "He's as dominant a player as he wants to be. You could tell how badly he wanted to win battles the other night and that's the way we want him to play. We need Andrei to show that kind of intensity on a consistent basis."

Kostitsyn will have the opportunity to do just that Friday night in Pittsburgh.

Manny Almela is a writer for

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