WASHINGTON – The Canadiens enjoyed a moral boost Friday morning when a familiar face joined the team at practice.
Offering a shot of leadership both in the dressing room and on the ice, Brian Gionta and Andrei Markov accompanied the team on their three-game road trip. While Gionta, still unable to practice, made his presence felt primarily around the room, veteran Andrei Markov provided a moral boost, joining the rest of the Habs for his first team practice since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to his right knee on December 5.
“It feels great to be out there. It was a long time that I didn’t play or practice with the team so I feel good today,” said Markov, clearly happy to have been on the ice with the Habs after skating solo for the last few weeks. While there remains no clear timeline for his return, the 33-year-old rearguard still hopes to get in some action before the regular season comes to an end.
“That’s my goal,” continued Markov on his aim of making an appearance in 2011-12. “I can’t tell you exactly the time or the date, but I’m just trying to push as hard as I can and feel better every day. As soon as I can I’m hoping to try a full contact practice. But I haven’t played for a long time so when I am ready, I’m sure I’ll be nervous and it won’t be easy mentally.”
While the Canadiens have been dealing with a tough season on the ice, Markov has been facing a more solitary struggle, having to date, only played a total of seven games over the last two seasons.
“I obviously prefer to play than to just sit there in the press box or the dressing room. Believe me – it’s not fun or easy. I’m trying to deal with it as best I can,” expressed Markov of his long road to recovery since re-injuring his knee on Nov. 13, 2010 after playing 19:56 against the Hurricanes at the Bell Centre.
“Nobody is pushing me to be back early. People are giving me the time I need to recover and be 100%. In this league you have to give 100% every time you step out onto the ice. I don’t want to be coming out at only 75%,” added the Russian blue-liner. “I want to be able to give my best every night.”
According to Markov, the chance to come back as effective as ever is at the top of his list of priorities – tied closely to the goal of being able provide the Canadiens with his services far into the future.
“This has been a tough recovery for me. I don’t want to play just one game and then have another injury or surgery again like I just went through,” confessed Markov. “For example, I want to be able to come back and play for the full season next year, and feel healthy.”
Before closing out his rare session with the media, the 11-year veteran of the Canadiens offered a final thought when faced with the question of how much he’s missed the game of hockey in recent years.
“I don’t have any words to express that,” finished Markov.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Stars come out
The Last Word: Seann William Scott