Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov has begun skating again, and is hoping to be back by the start January. His return can’t come soon enough for the Habs, as their injury list is mounting.
Jaroslav Spacek is the latest player to be sidelined with injury, and the understrength defence has come under heavy pressure in recent games. Carey Price had been in fine form, and helped the Habs gain good wins against Washington and Columbus. However, having Markov back sooner rather than later will do much to bring some stability.
Although the Russian only skated a short session on Thursday, it seems he may be ready sooner than was previously thought. When Markov hobbled off the ice on opening night against Toronto, it was though he would miss the Olympics and wouldn’t be back in action until the end of February. However, Markov may be back at the start of January, giving the Canadiens a huge boost.
The injuries have built up for the Habs, but they shown shown a lot of character this week. After gritting their teeth to pull off a comeback against Columbus on Tuesday, they went to Pittsburgh and really gave it a go last night. Despite losing 3-1 after a solid showing by Sidney Crosby, a little bit of luck could have resulted differently. Price let a soft goal past him, and Mike Cammalleri had a rebound with an open net, but the puck bounced over his stick.
The biggest problem for Montreal recently, is they are being outshot by the opposition. Defensively, Price is having to bail his team out every night. Offensively, the Habs are faltering without Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. Despite Gomez’s stats not being as impressive as Gionta or Tomas Plekanec, he has quietly been a key part of any success Montreal have experienced this season. He is able to slow the game down and contol play, allowing other players to create chances.
The injured players will recover, and offensively they have players who can step up to fill in. The Kostitsyn brothers have been given the opportunity to show what they can do, Plekanec has earnt more responsibilty and Maxime Lapierre has had a chance to shine as Guillaume Latendresse has departed for Minnesota.
There has also been opportunities for young players to get a chance on the ice. Tom Pyatt has been impressive as has Ryan White. However, the Habs do not have this cover in defence.
The significance of Markov’s return cannot be underestimated. He brings authority and confidence, and for the struggling Montreal defence, it cannot come soon enough.