MONTREAL – Coach Jacques Martin found a way to keep unused forward Sergei Kostitsyn from being a distraction?he barred him from the ice at the Montreal Canadiens game-day skate on Thursday.
When asked why the younger of the two Kostitsyn brothers was not on the ice, Martin said: ”No reason. I went to Sergei this morning and had him work out in the gym, that’s all. Our focus is on tonight’s game.”
Sergei Kostitsyn got into an exchange of words with backup goaltender Carey Price after he left the ice early during the team skate before Game 3 on Tuesday. When Price came off the ice at the end and saw Kostitsyn already out of is equipment in the dressing room he angrily asked ”Why weren’t you on the ice? Too good?”
INJURY UPDATES: Pittsburgh centre Jordan Staal looked to be back to his old self at the Pittsburgh Penguins game-day skate and said he was available to play in Game 4 on Thursday night.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he had yet to decide whether to bring Staal back only six days after he suffered a severed tendon in a foot during Game 1. Staal had surgery and was thought to be out for the rest of the series, but he skated haltingly during practice on Wednesday and looked to be going full-out a day later.
”I’m feeling really good out there and really comfortable,” said Staal. ”Every morning it’s a little sore. Throughout the night it’s going to swell up, but the trainers did a good job of loosening it up and it felt good.
”It’s a touchy subject. No one knows 100 per cent when they’re ready to get back. But it can’t really get worse, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Veteran winger Bill Guerin, who missed Game 3 with an undisclosed injury that some believe was an illness, was also back on the ice skating hard.
”It was a surprise to get him out there on the ice,” said Bylsma. ”He looked good. He didn’t look a day over 39, and it as good to have him back. He’s day-to-day but not probable for (Game 4).”
Checking forward Michael Rupp missed the skate and was doubtful for the game.
”He is not dealing with a hockey injury. It’s undisclosed,” Bylsma said.
For Montreal, defenceman Jaroslav Spacek continues to skate with his teammates, but Martin said he is not yet ready to return. Spacek has been out since Game 3 of the first round with a virus.
CROWDED ICE: There have been 27 calls for too many men on the ice in the NHL playoffs thus far, more than there was in all of the post-season last year.
Neither Martin nor Bylsma could offer an explanation for the hike, although both know why teams get caught with an extra man more often during the playoffs than the regular season.
”The competition level, the noise in the building,” said Martin. ”Sometimes, when you’re trying to make match-ups as a coach, there are some late calls. You may call one line and at the last second you call someone else, but because of the noise or a lack of focus those things happen.
”You need to have concentration. You want your players on the bench to be in the game. That’s the key.”
The Penguins have yet to be called for too many men in these playoffs, but Bylsma recalls getting nailed during the Stanley Cup final last spring.
”It was too loud in our building to communicate,” he said. ”I looked down at a player and said ‘no, you’re not going,’ and then turned around and looked at the other player and said ‘you’re going to be up on that line.’
”Both of them went the ice and both thought they were doing the exact right thing. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw (Max Talbot and Miroslav Satan) on the ice together. That was just a fact of the building and us trying to get different combinations. It happens more in the playoffs when you’re looking for match-ups and the buildings are loud.”