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Out for 20 games. Forward won't play in Toronto tomorrow words words words words words words
PAT HICKEY, The Gazette
Published: Friday, January 26, 2007


There was a welcome addition to the Canadiens lineup as they returned to the ice after the all-star break.

Forward Steve Begin joined his teammates at practice for the first time since he went on the injured list with back spasms on Dec. 11.

Begin described the practice as "step one" in his comeback and said he won't be in the lineup tomorrow night, when the Canadiens meet the Maple Leafs in Toronto (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, CJAD Radio-800).

And while coach Guy Carbonneau hinted that there was a spot in the lineup waiting for Begin, the team doesn't feel the need to rush his return.

"This was his first day back and we didn't push him," Carbonneau said. "We'll have a better idea when we see how he feels tomorrow, but it's good to get him back on the ice.

"He's the kind of player who we could have used when we were having some problems during the holidays. He could have given us a spark with a big hit or a blocked shot."

Begin said that when he first experienced pain in his back and his legs, he thought it was going to be a matter of days before he was back in the lineup.

"Every day, I thought the next day was going to be the day and now it's been seven weeks," said Begin, who has missed the last 20 games.

"It was frustrating because I was coming off a good year," said Begin, who had a career-high 11 goals and 23 points in 2005-06. "But I wasn't getting the same chances I was getting last season. I wanted to get back and help the team."

Begin, who has two goals and two assists in 29 games this season, said his major problem stemmed from discs that were moving.

"The only cure was rest and physio," Begin said.

The rugged winger started feeling better during the week before the all-star break and skated on his own four times. He was back on the ice this week, when he travelled to Val d'Or, where he played his junior hockey. The Val d'Or Foreurs retired Begin's No. 22 Wednesday night.

Carbonneau said he didn't have a timetable for Begin's return. But he indicated he wasn't entirely satisfied with the play of Garth Murray and Maxim Lapierre, who have been sharing the centre spot on the fourth line.

"Garth hasn't been playing with the same confidence he showed last season," said Carbonneau, who noted that Murray was caught in one of those Catch-22 situations. He said Murray probably feels he needs more ice time, but he hasn't played well enough to earn it.

Lapierre has played the last nine games, but the rookie was returned to the Hamilton Bulldogs this week.

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