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Newcomer Robert Lang looking to bring depth to Canadiens attack

MONTREAL - Robert Lang had breakfast Monday morning with his old linemate Alex Kovalev and wondered if the two would get to play together again with the Montreal Canadiens.

Lang, acquired on Friday from the Chicago Blackhawks for a second-round draft pick, later took part in an informal skate at the Bell Centre with most of his new teammates.

"We had a little chit-chat and he filled me in on the Canadiens," said Lang, who had his best years playing with Kovalev and Martin Straka with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1998 to 2002. "We had a great four or five years in Pittsburgh.

"Whenever you have good chemistry with someone like that it's nice to be revisited."

Whether that will happen in Montreal remains to be seen.

Coach Guy Carbonneau said he has yet to work out what his lines will look like after the off-season acquisition of Lang, Alex Tanguay and Georges Laraque and the departure of Brian Smolinski, Mark Streit and Michael Ryder.

Kovalev had a team-high 84 points last season on a line that worked nicely with young centre Tomas Plekanec and left-winger Andrei Kostitsyn.

"He's played with Kovalev before, but it's hard to break up that line," Carbonneau said. "Last year, we had two lines, but now with Robert, we should have three really good offensive lines."

Captain Saku Koivu played most of last season between Christopher Higgins and Sergei Kostitsyn. Tanguay, a left-winger, also has to be fit into a trio, while Guillaume Latendresse, who also plays the left side, needs to be on a scoring line.

The 37-year-old Lang brings what the Canadiens were seeking - a big centre with a right-hand shot to offset the smaller, left-shooting Koivu and Plekanec.

General manager Bob Gainey tried hard to land free agent Mats Sundin, but gave up when the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain dithered over whether to retire or play another season.

"Fortunately for me, it worked out this way," said Lang. "And too bad for Mats - he could have been here."

Lang, who will wear his usual No. 20 that was freed up when Smolinski wasn't retained, drove in from Chicago on Sunday to begin his first season with a Canadian-based club. His previous stops were in Los Angeles, Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.


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