Kathleen Hinkel/Icon SMI)
While some may say Andrei Markov’s return is too little too late, don’t tell that to Montreal Canadiens‘ fans – or to Markov. Since the 2009-10 season, Markov has only played in 52 games. The Canadiens’ top defenseman has missed the last 16 months recovering from his second reconstructive knee surgery (ACL).
“I didn’t play for almost two years. I missed the game and I just wanted to play and feel my conditioning and how my knee would react,” Markov told Canadiens.com. “I’m just happy to be here right now and I’m going to take it one game at a time.”
Markov had a trial by fire in his first game back, playing against one of the league’s top teams – the Vancouver Canucks. He turned in 17 minutes of ice-time in his return, and added an assist on P.K. Subban’s power play goal.
“We’re happy we got the two points,” the 33-year-old Markov said. “We just beat one of the strongest teams in the league.”
It’s a happy ending to what has been a very gruelling season for the 15th-seeded Canadiens. Markov’s teammates could already see the difference in the game with Markov controlling the flow from the back-end.
“When he’s healthy he’s in the top three best defensemen in the league,” Subban told Canadiens.com. “He’s an unbelievable passer. All the passes from him today were just…you just know where it’s going to be and you just get ready to shoot it. His timing was perfect. I don’t know how he does it, but he does it.”
While it may have a limited impact on this season, the Canadiens final 13 games will be a good conditioning stint for the Russian defenseman as he looks to get back into NHL form. Markov is under contract for the next two seasons at a cap-hit of $5,750,000.
“It was awesome,” Markov said. “Everybody knew this was a big game for us and a big challenge and it’s nice to see the team play this way.”
As the Canadiens look to bounce back next season, a healthy Markov will certainly be a welcomed addition.
Northeast Division Notes
Boston Bruins: Goaltender Tuukka Rask is scheduled to be out 4-6 weeks with a groin injury suffered last weekend. Defenseman Adam McQuaid (upper body), and forwards Max Sauve (lower body) and Patrice Bergeron (blocked a shot) all left Sunday’s game with various injuries – none appear to be too serious. Sauve had been sent down on Thursday, but was recalled again on emergency basis. Marty Turco made his Bruins debut after Tim Thomas was chased from the net after allowing three goals on 10 shots. Turco made 20 saves on 22 shots. The Bruins will start their Florida road trip with a game in Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres return home this evening for a key game against division rival Montreal. The Sabres are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are four points out of eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Defenseman Andrej Sekera continues to be day-to-day with the flu. Thomas Vanek, who left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury, also remains day-to-day. Marcus Foligno scored his first NHL goal against his brother Nick’s Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Ottawa Senators: Ben Bishop continued his solid play this weekend. Even in his loss, Bishop turned aside 38 of 41 shots. Erik Karlsson is one point away from reaching the 70-point mark. The Senators are off until Wednesday when they’ll visit the Canadiens, and then return home on Friday for back-to-back games against the Canadiens and Maple Leafs.
Montreal Canadiens: Forward Erik Cole was fined $2,500 for slew-footing Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry last Thursday. Blake Geoffrion scored his first goal with the Canadiens on Saturday vs. the Vancouver Canucks. The goal was also scored on the same day that marked the six-year anniversary of the passing of his grandfather, Bernie (Boom-Boom) Geoffrion. David Desharnias missed Saturday’s game due to a lower-body injury (day-to-day), but will be a game time decision tonight. The Canadiens will visit the Sabres tonight, before a home and home vs. the Senators later this week.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs went scoreless this weekend, being shut-out by both the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals. They did manage to secure one point against the Flyers after going to a shoot-out. The team is winless in their last four games. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson started in both contests this weekend and was solid with a 1.45 goals against average and a 0.950 save percentage. Mike Brown missed both weekend games with a leg injury. Colby Armstrong was a scratch on Saturday, but was inserted into the lineup on Sunday. Cody Franson sat out both weekend games. The Maple Leafs start their Florida road trip with a game against the Panthers on Tuesday night.