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Former Canadien Ryder looks to rediscover scoring touch with Bruins

MONTREAL - Michael Ryder looks at home in the Boston Bruins' black and gold jersey and now he hopes it helps bring back his scoring touch.

The 28-year-old right-winger did not even get an offer from the Montreal Canadiens when he became an unrestricted free agent after scoring only 14 goals last season.

"I don't think I have to bounce back, I just have to do what I did before," Ryder said Wednesday as he prepared to face the Canadiens in Montreal's regular-season home opener at the Bell Centre.

"Last year was a tough situation. It didn't really work out here in Montreal. Now I have a new start and it's working out well so far. I just have to make sure it keeps going."

Ryder had seasons of 25, 30 and 30 goals for Montreal after breaking into the NHL in 2003-04 and had earned a spot on the team's top line with Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins.

But it all came undone last season when he stopped finding the net with any regularity.

Coach Guy Carbonneau moved him from line to line, put him on and off the power play, but nothing worked for long. He was first made a healthy scratch in December and ended up sitting out 10 games over the regular season and again for most of the playoffs.

It may have been that Carbonneau asked him to improve on his minus-25 from 2006-07, which he lowered to minus-4 last season, perhaps at the expense of his offensive output.

But by the end of last season, it was clear he would not be back

Montreal picked up Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang and Georges Laraque in the off-season, but Ryder also landed on his feet, signing a US$12-million three-year deal with the Bruins, the Canadiens' Northeast Division rival. In four seasons with Montreal, he had only played on one-year contracts.

The Bruins were looking for scoring after finishing 24th in the 30-team league with only 212 goals last season.

And their coach was Claude Julien, the Canadiens' former bench boss who gave Ryder his first break in the NHL and also coached him in junior with the Gatineau Olympiques.

"We're looking for what Michael Ryder's always done," said Julien. "He's been pretty productive in all his years of hockey.

"Obviously, last year was pretty tough for him and we're not going to get into that, except to say he's certainly finding his game with our team and he's had a good start to the season. We hope he'll help with the lack of scoring we had last year."

Ryder has found himself on Boston's top line with Marc Savard and P.J. Axelsson and had a goal and two assists in his first two games as a Bruin.

"He's a really good goal-scorer," said Axelsson. "He's got a tremendous shot.

"He's a big boy. He doesn't look that big, but he's good at protecting the puck."

Ryder said he's still trying to fit in with his new linemates.

"It took me a while to get to know the guys and get the feel of it, but I think me, Savvy and P.J. are getting more comfortable on the ice,"' he said. "Every time we're out, there's a little more chemistry and knowing where each other is going to be."

The Bonavista, N.L., native had already been to Montreal for a pre-season game and, as with many former Canadiens who return, was booed by the fans. It's something he will likely hear for at least his first few visits.

"You don't really hear it after the first two or three times," he said. "Then you just block it out.

"I didn't expect anything less. It doesn't bother me. I guess it just shows that they cared a little bit."

On Wednesday night, the Canadiens were to unveil their Ring of Honour at the Bell Centre paying tribute to the 44 players and 10 builders the team has sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Ryder said it is strange to attend events like that as a visiting player, but he knew last summer that his time as a Canadien was up.

"I'm still a little puzzled about it, but I wrote it off and I'm starting again with a clean slate," he said.



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