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Habs' Kostitsyn and coach Martin downplay reports of rift

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TSN.ca Staff
9/14/2011 5:02:28 PM
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Montreal Canadiens left winger Andrei Kostitsyn and head coach Jacques Martin both downplayed rumours of a rift at the Canadiens' annual charity golf tournament on Wednesday.

"I've never had any issue with Andrei," said Martin. "He's a player that brings a lot to our hockey club."

Kostitsyn echoed Martin's sentiments.

"I think we're good for the season," said Kostitsyn. "Coach Jacques is a good coach."

The Canadiens signed Kostitsyn to a one-year deal worth $3.25 million in the off-season. Reports of a strained relationship between the two surfaced after Kostitsyn expressed frustration with his coach on a hockey website in his native Belarus.

"I can't guess about next season," Kostitsyn was quoted as saying on the website. "My relationship with the coach is not too good.

"It wasn't me who started to play badly," he said. "It's just that I was being put into (the) third and fourth line. I've tried talking to (Martin). But he doesn't seem to care."

Both Kostitsyn and Martin were nothing but positive on Wednesday though with Martin praising Kostitsyn's skills.  "He's big, he's got a big shot and he goes to the net," said Martin.  "There were times [last] season that he might have been one of our top forwards."

The 26-year-old scored 20 goals and added 25 assists in 81 games for the Canadiens last season. He added two goals in six playoffs games as Montreal bowed out to the Boston Bruins in the first round.

Kostitsyn has scored at least 20 goals in three of the last four seasons but can also be a bit streaky, something Martin would like to see Kostitsyn improve.

"We want him to continue to progress and help our hockey team win hockey games," said Martin. "What we're looking for is consistency."

Where that consistency will come though remains to be seen as the signing of Erik Cole and the continued development of Max Pacioretty means Kostitsyn could legitimately wind up being the team's third centre. For his part though, Kostitsyn said he is ready to go and expects to have a good year. He also expressed interest in remaining with the Canadiens long-term.

"Yeah I'd like to stay in Montreal," he said. "Not one year, but more years."

After being selected 10th overall in the 2003 draft by the Canadiens, Kostitsyn has spent his entire NHL career in Montreal. In 326 career games, he has scored 87 goals and 186 points.

Andrei Kostitsyn (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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