The year 2009 has been a rough one for Andrei Kostitsyn.
Off the ice, he and his brother Sergei were involved in an outlandish rumor that had them and Roman Hamrlik linked to the Montreal mobster Pasquale Mangiola.
While all three players are now cleared of any charges, the whole ordeal added another stain to a very messy 2008-2009 season.
Things didn't get much better to begin 2009-2010, as Andrei provided some very lackluster play leading to rumors that he and his brother were on their way out of Montreal.
A very rough year indeed, one that certainly tarnished the former first-round pick's image.
However, things are starting to look better as the Canadiens' centennial celebrations are over, and with them, an overflow of distractions and high expectations.
And with his brother Sergei back in town, Andrei seems to have rediscovered his game, albeit after a month or so.
At the beginning of the season, it seemed that he wasn't interested in playing hockey, but Kostitsyn has been contributing more and more with each passing game since around mid-November.
Those contributions have come in the forms of creating offense with his shot and putting the puck in the net.
In last night's overtime loss against the Atlanta Thrashers, Kostitsyn was able to find the back of the net twice, using his deadly shot both times.
It is an encouraging sign to see Andrei using his shot more. He is seeing the benefits of shooting the puck more often and he will start finding the back of the net much more than he has been.
Jacques Martin, who lost his patience a number of times with Andrei at practice, is beginning to trust his young Belorussian forward more, as his promotion to the top line indicates.
Andrei is certainly benefiting from playing with Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec instead of his linemates at the beginning of the season, Kyle Chipchura and (insert AHL call-up's name here).
When Brian Gionta returns, it is not certain that he will return to the top line if Kostitsyn keeps up his strong play.
Gionta could very well find himself on the second line with $8 million man Scott Gomez and Max Pacioretty, seeing as how the Canadiens' top line has been producing.
Either way, Andrei is ending a rather turbulent year on a strong note, which bodes very well for the Canadiens' playoff hopes.
Does his strong play quell any trade rumors?
Unlikely. The minute his game lags a bit, the anti-Kostitsyns will crawl back out and start talking trade again.
However, the Canadiens would be making a terrible mistake if they trade Andrei. He represents the present and the future of the Habs' offense. Right now, all signs point to him becoming one of the Canadiens' premier offensive threats.
With increased ice time, quality linemates and a seemingly boosted self-confidence, Andrei Kostitsyn is finally showing to the world why he was selected 10th overall in the 2003 draft and that he can be a top-line player.