The Montreal Canadiens enter the 2012-13 season looking to erase the memory of a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
While there is a new coaching staff led by Michel Therrien and a new front office led by general manager Marc Bergevin, it could very well be the team's most tenured player who allows the Canadiens to bounce back into the playoffs. Defenseman Andrei Markov played his final game with Vityaz Chekhov in the KHL on Tuesday and reportedly will be heading back to Montreal on Thursday.
"There's no doubt right now that he's able to play, he's healthy, he's 100 percent and he's a huge addition to our team." -- Montreal coach Michel Therrien
And when he arrives, he will be healthy.
Markov has undergone back-to-back reconstructive surgeries on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and was limited to 20 games during the past two seasons. His new coach is eager to see the 34-year-old defenseman back on the ice.
Therrien already has a relationship with Markov -- he's the only Canadiens player who was on the club during Therrien's first stint in Montreal, which ended in 2002-03 -- so the coach has a good idea of what to expect from the two-time All-Star defenseman.
"Andrei's going to be one of our leaders," Therrien said at a press conference Monday. "Andrei hasn't played much the last two years, as you all know, and I talked to him before the lockout and he was excited about being able to start the season with his teammates."