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Gomez, Ladouceur clash in Canadiens practice

by Arpon Basu /
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens' season to date has been one rife with frustration, and there was further evidence of that at practice Tuesday.

One day after blowing yet another third period lead in a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, center Scott Gomez and Canadiens assistant coach Randy Ladouceur engaged in a very vocal and animated exchange over a drill that was not completed to the coach's liking.

The back and forth between the two continued for several minutes while the team was gathered along the boards to receive instructions on the next drill, and Gomez sought out Ladouceur later in practice to continue the discussion.

For a team that may have seen its dimming playoff hopes shut off for good with the loss to the Hurricanes, which left them 11th in the Eastern Conference seven points behind the eighth-place Maple Leafs, the shouting match appeared to reflect how many players on the team were feeling.

"It happens all the time. I screwed up on the drill. It just shows you how the fire's still there in all of us," Gomez said. "I screwed up on the drill and he let me know about it. It's not the first time, it's not the last time. It's a part of hockey. It happens all the time, and it just shows how crucial it is right now."

Though there clearly was some back and forth going on between the two, Gomez suggested he was doing more listening than talking.

"I wasn't going back, I was listening to him," Gomez said. "He's the coach. It was a conversation, there was no argument. It's a coach yelling at a player for messing up a drill. We're all in a position where we realize where we're at and your attitude's going to change a little bit, you're a little more on edge. I wish I could tell you there was more, but it was nothing."

It was not the first time Ladouceur has had a public discipline session with a player. Cameras caught him doing the same thing with defenseman P.K. Subban on the bench during a game in Pittsburgh on Jan. 20 after a turnover cost the Canadiens a shorthanded goal.

But this time it took place in front of the entire team, and the message sent was noticed by other players.

"It's the whole team," said veteran defenseman Hal Gill. "You're isolating it to one instance on the ice, but it's the whole team. The way things are going, everyone's got to be sharp. It's not one guy that wins games or one guy that loses games. We have to be sharper as a team."

Gomez played just 7:49 against Carolina, the lowest ice time he's had this season since he played just 2:40 Oct. 20 against Pittsburgh due to an upper-body injury.

Head coach Randy Cunneyworth said he fully supported Ladouceur's tone with Gomez, and refused to confirm Gomez would even play Wednesday at home against the Boston Bruins.

"We'll look at it; we'll look at everything at this time," Cunneyworth said when asked directly whether or not Gomez would play. "We're looking for the lineup that will play the right way and battle hard against a very good Boston Bruins team. That's all we’re looking for -- 20 guys that will do that."

The only lineup decision Cunneyworth would confirm for Wednesday's game was that Ryan White -- a hard-nosed, scrappy forward that fits perfectly into the style of game Cunneyworth is trying to sell -- will make his season debut after fully recovering from sports-hernia surgery.

White's insertion into the lineup means one forward who played Monday most likely will need to come out against Boston, and there's nothing saying it won't be Gomez or linemate Andrei Kostitsyn, who played just 4:20 Monday against the Hurricanes.

"We can't have one passenger, no matter who it is. There's a lot at stake here," Cunneyworth said. "If we don't play the right way, whether it's a top club or not, you're not going to achieve the goals you want. We have to have a great effort from everybody against a team like Boston, otherwise they'll embarrass you."
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