BROSSARD – Andrei Markov looks to be nearing his return as he accompanies the Habs to California.
Markov almost ready: With the city of Montreal anxious for any news on Andrei Markov’s return to action, Jacques Martin made it clear Monday morning that while he’s not exactly sure when it will happen, the day is fast approaching. Cleared for contact and practicing with the team’s first power play unit, Markov will be accompanying the team on their California swing.
“We’re definitely getting closer. He’s been practicing with the team for the last couple of weeks and while I don’t have an exact date yet, I think I mentioned last week that I felt that this week would be a good test for him,” dropped the Habs’ head coach of his All-Star defenseman who will likely start being eased back into the lineup in the near future. “It’s a chance for him to have some good intense practices, do a lot of grunt work, a lot of competing, some defensive zone coverage, some one-on-ones. So we’ll just have to wait and see, but we’re going in the right direction.”
Change of scenery: In addition to the welcome news of Markov’s progress Monday morning, another encouraging sign was the presence of Chris Campoli back skating with the rest of the team for the first time. After almost two months of solo rehab it was clear the Canadiens’ defenseman appreciated the on-ice company.
“It felt great to be on the ice with the team. When you’re out, not playing and skating alone, it seems like an eternity, but right now I’m progressing well,” said Campoli, who despite sporting a no-contact jersey, competed hard, taking a couple of small bumps along the way.
“I think that just comes from being out there with the guys and being excited,” continued Campoli. “It’s part of what makes us professionals at this level; we’re competitive people and we want to work. I’m just out there trying to get healthy. No timeline for me, but hopefully you’ll see me back sooner than later.”
Campoli will follow his teammates to California, but will not play. Scott Gomez will not be making the trip, nor will Ryan White and Andreas Engqvist who both skated alone on Monday.
Coach Kirk in Carolina: With the Monday morning firing of Paul Maurice as head coach of the Hurricanes, Habs fans can expect to see a familiar face fill the position as Kirk Muller steps behind the Carolina bench.
“It’s good for Kirk, and I’m happy for him. He’s got a lot of really good experience dealing with hockey players,” said Carey Price, who was coached by Muller for four seasons of his time with the Canadiens. “He had a pretty good hand in things here, he’s a really social guy so I think he’s going to do really well there. Kirk’s very optimistic and he’s probably exactly what they need. He demands a lot from players but at the same time, he’s very approachable. He should fit in there great.
“There’s a lot of urgency throughout the league right now,” added Price on the heels of Bruce Boudreau also losing his job as coach of the Capitals on Monday. “Nobody wants to be out of a playoff position, and it’s important to be in those top eight teams.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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