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Postseason struggles continue for Canadiens' Vanek

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was asked about a few of his players Tuesday, but there was just one he didn't particularly want to talk about.

With the Canadiens taking a day off before preparing to play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Therrien held a conference call with reporters to discuss being down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series heading on the road.

He was asked at one point about forward Max Pacioretty, and Therrien spoke of how he has matured into a young leader who has been given greater responsibility and thrived.

He was asked about forward Alex Galchenyuk, who Therrien praised for his ability to adapt to the pace of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a 3-1 loss in Game 2 after missing six weeks with a knee injury.

He was also asked about forward Thomas Vanek, and that's when Therrien suddenly decided he didn't want to discuss individual players.

"First of all, he's healthy," Therrien said of the snake-bitten Vanek. "Secondly, I'm not going to start talking about individual players because one of the reasons we're in the conference final is that everyone's contributed in their own way in the playoffs. Thomas is a member of our team and he's also made a contribution for us to reach the conference final.

"So I'd rather not talk about that because I have a lot of respect for what the team's done since the start of the playoffs."

When Vanek was acquired from the New York Islanders prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, it was widely seen as the biggest coup of any playoff-bound team. It took Vanek some time to adjust, but once he was placed on right wing of a line with Pacioretty and David Desharnais, they became one of the top offensive combinations in the NHL.

In Vanek's first game in the playoffs with the Canadiens, he scored an even-strength goal and had seven shots on net. In the 12 games since, Vanek has surpassed one shot on goal in three games and has been shut out the same number of times.

The only even-strength goal he's scored since that first game came with Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask making his way to the bench for an extra attacker. It was technically not an empty-net goal because Rask had not yet left the ice, but by any other measure it was.

Galchenyuk's return Monday was an encouraging sign for Therrien, and might eventually provide him with some options if Vanek is unable to get it going offensively soon.

"For a guy that hadn't played for six weeks, I thought [Galchenyuk] did well," Therrien said. "Especially because this is not the pace of the regular season, this is a playoff pace, and I thought Alex did good the first game back. I thought he was capable, made some plays.

"The more the series is going to go on, the more we're going to see Alex getting better and better."

Therrien can only hope Vanek will do the same.

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