PHILADELPHIA - It has been a challenging year for Montreal Canadiens forward Michael Ryder.

The 28-year-old from Bonavista, N.L., struggled with just 14 goals in the regular season and was a healthy scratch for a fifth straight playoff game Monday.

Habs coach Guy Carbonneau decided to sit fourth-liner Mathieu Dandenault for Game 3 of Montreal's second-round series against Philadelphia, but rather than call on Ryder, he went with 20-year-old Guillaume Latendresse.

Considering the number of scoring chances the Canadiens wasted in their 4-2 loss to the Flyers in Game 2, Carbonneau was asked why he wouldn't dress a finisher like Ryder.

"Michael has had some highs and lows since the start of the year," Carbonneau said. "I think we expected more from him this season. The way Guillaume played earlier in the playoffs, I felt he deserved to play."

Ryder hasn't played since Game 5 of Montreal's first-round series against the Boston Bruins. Carbonneau explained his decision after the morning skate Monday.

Ryder stuck around for some extra work following the skate Monday and wasn't available for comment.

He never seemed to be able to get on track this year after leading the team with 30 goals in each of his previous two seasons. Ryder, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, was also a healthy scratch 10 times in the regular season.

Neither Ryder nor Latendresse have a point in the playoffs and they had both been scratched the previous four games by Carbonneau, ever since captain Saku Koivu returned from a fractured foot in Game 6 against Boston.

With Dandenault scratched Monday, it represented the first opening for a forward to get back in the lineup since Koivu's return, and Ryder lost out to the younger Latendresse.

Ryder has been a good team guy throughout the playoffs, not once complaining about his situation when given the opportunity. However, it's obvious to his agent Thane Campbell that Ryder is not enjoying watching games from the press box.

"I don't think there's any player that wouldn't be unhappy, and if they weren't then they should probably be doing something else," Campbell said Monday from his Mississauga, Ont., office. "That being said, he's supported his teammates and he wants the team to succeed because he's still a member of the team."

Ryder has never signed more than a one-year contract with the Canadiens in his four seasons in Montreal. Last summer, he settled on a deal paying him US$2.95 million one day before his scheduled arbitration hearing.

Campbell is hopeful inquiring teams this summer will take Montreal's situation into account when evaluating his client.

"I think a lot of teams will recognize that Montreal has some great young players and that they want to give the ice time to some of the guys that will be around long-term," Campbell said.

In spite of the drop in production, he believes Ryder continued his growth as a hockey player this season.

"I think Michael, when he played this year, was playing some of his best hockey," he said. "I think teams will be able to see that when they look at the tapes."

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