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Ins and Outs

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

ANAHEIM – The Habs lace up in California with the focus of the day squarely on Max Pacioretty, Andrei Markov and Louis Leblanc.

Tough to swallow: After joining the team on their cross-continental journey for the Habs’ three  west coast match-ups, Max Pacioretty arrived in California only to be handed the news that he wouldn’t be eligible to play in any of them. News of the three-game suspension for his Saturday night hit on the Penguins’ Kris Letang still fresh, Pacioretty spoke out Tuesday on Brendan Shanahan’s verdict.

“It’s difficult for me to be understanding of this decision with all the events that happened, so I think the best idea for me right now is not to get into how I feel,” explained Pacioretty following the Canadiens Tuesday morning practice. “Brendan Shanahan compared my hit to the Savard-Cooke incident, but I personally don’t think that could be farther from the truth. Letang was aware that I was there and saw me coming before the hit.”

“I haven’t been hitting very much at all this season because I never know what the outcome is going to be,” continued Pacioretty who leads the team in goals with 10 so far in 2011-12. “To be completely honest with you, I’m afraid to throw a hit because when you’re on the forecheck, the defenseman turns his back to you and puts himself in a vulnerable position. It’s hard for a player when people are expecting you to finish your checks.”

Realistic expectations: Andrei Markov hit the ice for an intensive workout with his teammates as he continues to near his first taste of NHL action in over a year. While the All-Star defenseman is showing encouraging signs, Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin has yet to put a date on Markov’s return, making sure to keep expectations in check.

“It’s important to understand that whatever moment that Andrei is ready to play, he’s still not going to be at 100%,” pointed out Martin. “We need to remember that he’s missed one; almost two years of hockey. It would be unfair to expect him to jump back into the lineup and immediately be performing at 100%.”

Well, that was quick…: When the Canadiens nabbed Louis Leblanc as their first-round draft-pick two years ago in 2009, few people thought they’d see him with the big club this soon. Mathieu Darche took a moment to point out the effort Leblanc has put in to earn a call up to the NHL this early in his career.

“Fourteen games – that’s not too bad. Me, I had to wait what… 500 or 600?” kidded Darche. “I’m extremely happy for him. He texted me when he got the news. I know he worked really hard all summer to come back from that shoulder injury. He’s an extremely dedicated individual, and I’ll do whatever I can to help him out. I’ll probably instruct him to do what I say, not what I do.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for

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