|Damphousse making most of second chance
Thursday, 7 May, 1998
MONTREAL (CP) -- The NHL playoffs have given Vincent Damphousse a chance to make up for a mediocre regular season and he's making the most of it.
The Montreal centre, whose usual 80-point production dropped to 18 goals and 41 assists this season, had eight points in the Canadiens' six-game victory over Pittsburgh in the first round of playoffs.
"I think I had a very average year," said Damphousse. "Offensively, I struggled for different reasons.
"I wasn't on the first power play all year, but I was for the first four games of the playoffs because Saku (Koivu) was injured.
"This year, I was asked to kill penalties and play against the other team's best line. It was a different role, but I enjoyed it."
Damphousse held out of training camp before signing a one-year contract worth more than million U.S. and expectations were high.
He was criticised during the season for poor conditioning and listless play.
And he was often reminded that he was held without a point during last spring's playoffs, when Montreal was bounced from the first round in five games by New Jersey.
Linemate Martin Rucinsky said Damphousse worked out extra hard to prepare for the playoffs this year.
"He's the captain," said Rucinsky. "He didn't have a point last year and neither did I.
"It hasn't been easy for him. He's from Montreal. He spends his summers here and people were on his back. But as he always says: If you can't take the pressure, go drive a bus for a living."
A strong post-season is all the more important because Damphousse is among about 12 who will need new contracts this summer.
"The difference between this year and last year is that we had a five-day break before the playoffs started," said Damphousse. "It gave us a couple of days to work hard.
"I'm a long way from being satisfied. I want to keep going the way I did in that series. Obviously, I'm happy. I felt I played well against Pittsburgh, but there's a lot of work left to do."
Damphousse, left-winger Benoit Brunet and defenceman Patrice Brisebois are all that is left of the Canadiens team that won the 1993 Stanley Cup.