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Bill Beacon, Canadian Press
Published: Friday, October 27, 2006


MONTREAL (CP) - Sergei Samsonov isn't asking out of Montreal, he just wants to play more.

The speedy winger downplayed hints from his agent Neil Abbott that he would seek a trade, saying Friday he hoped to find his niche with the Canadiens.

"My first priority now is to stay with the Canadiens," said Samsonov, who signed a US$7.05-million, two-year contract as a free agent this summer. "I'm here for two years and I'm looking forward to it, but then again, if things are not working out, we'll see where it takes us.

"It's way too early to say anything. We just have to go through the process. It's a new team, new linemates, and I'm sure it's new for coach (Guy Carbonneau) too. We're just going to have to work through it."

Samsonov, a two-time 29-goal scorer with Boston, has two goals and two assists in his first nine games with Montreal. This week, he was taken off the team's second line with Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec.

That spurred Abbott to tell reporters in Boston this week that he has put his "thought and concerns" about Samsonov's playing time in writing to general manager Bob Gainey and, without saying so directly, hinted his client wanted a trade.

When asked if he wanted out, Samsonov said: "Not to this point, no."

Samsonov was angry when he was demoted to the fourth line for the third period of a game on Tuesday and for a practice the following day, saying it showed that "maybe I'm not needed here."

But the Russian left-winger, who turned 28 on Friday, was moved up to the third line with Radek Bonk and Mike Johnson for a 3-2 win Thursday night over the Bruins and played nearly 15 minutes.

Samsonov was also on the ice for the opening face-off in his first game back in Boston since he was traded March 9 to Edmonton. Montreal outbid the Oilers for him when he became a free agent after the season.

"It was a big game for me," he said. "I played there a long time, so it was nice of coach to put me in the starting lineup.

"I played a bit more and it went well."

He is expected to stay on that line when the Canadiens play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Samsonov said he has talked to Carbonneau about what is expected from him and how he will be used.

The coach felt that Samsonov and Kovalev, who both like to hang onto the puck to make plays, weren't compatible.

He didn't want to break up the top line of Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder, or the third-line duo of Bonk and Johnson, but he found a compromise in having Samsonov replace Alexander Perezhogin on the Bonk line.

"I talked to Sergei a couple of days ago about his game but it didn't work out, so I had to do something," Carbonneau said of the move.

The former Canadiens captain was "very surprised" at Samsonov's angry reaction to his demotion in the media less than a month into his stay in

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