PITTSBURGH -- Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov has returned to Montreal for treatment for a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of Game 1. According to Montreal coach Jaques Martin, Markov is "out indefinitely."
Martin said that Markov did not have surgery, as had been rumored, and confirmed that he will not be available for Sunday's Game 2.
Aside from that, Martin was not very forthcoming with details.
"At this time it's too early to say when he would be able to come back," Martin said Saturday afternoon.
"He was sent back last night (as) an opportunity to be evaluated by our doctors in Montreal today," he continued. "As I said, at this point, I can't say when he would be back."
Markov injured himself in the first period of Friday's 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena when Penguins forward Matt Cooke checked Markov heavily into the corner board as the defenseman made an outlet pass toward center ice.
Markov went down awkwardly and appeared to hurt his left knee, although the team is saying only that is a lower-body injury. Markov needed help from the Montreal trainer getting off the ice and did not return.
The loss of Markov is a huge blow to Montreal's hopes of springing another upset in these playoffs.
"Obviously being without him for any extended period of time is going to be tough," said Brian Gionta, one of three Montreal players made available to the media on Sunday's off day.
Markov is the team's best all-around defender and plays more than 26 minutes a game, including top-billing slots on both the power play and penalty kill, which was 32 of 33 against Washington in the first round, but allowed four power-play goals on four opportunities to Pittsburgh in Friday night's game.
Now the Montreal blue line is in a bit of disarray. The primary shutdown pair of Hal Gill and Josh Gorges remains, but things get dicey after that.
Roman Hamrlik was benched in the first round. Marc-Andre Bergeron is in the midst of a crisis of confidence on the blue line and had been playing as a forward before the injury. Ryan O'Byrne began the playoffs as a healthy scratch and rookie PK Subban, the team's most noticeable defender in game 1, has all of three NHL playoff games on his resume.
But Gionta has faith in his team's blue line.
"We've got some good D," Gionta said. "Obviously, PK is playing well for us. He's a power-play kind of guy. Bergeron. Hamrlik. You have some power-play guys that can step up and play that point spot. It's a big loss, but we experienced it earlier on in the season, so hopefully we can just tap into what we were doing back then."
Hamrlik was relied on heavily when Markov missed a stretch of the regular season and Martin says he will lean on the veteran again in Markov's latest absence.
"In Markov's absence, a guy like Roman Hamrlik raised his game, and we expect the same thing now," Martin said.
There was thought that the Canadiens would receive some relief with the return of Jaroslav Spacek for Game 2, but that seems unlikely after Spacek skated with the Montreal scratches again Saturday as the regulars were giving the day off.
Spacek, who has missed the past five games, did not speak to the media after the skate at Southpointe Iceoplex, suggesting that he has not fully recovered from a mystery virus that has sidelined him for the past three games.