MONTREAL -- The wait is over. Andrei Markov
is back. After a month out of action to recover from knee surgery, the Habs’ star-defenseman will make his much discussed and highly anticipated return tonight at the Bell Centre as the Canadiens take on the Florida Panthers.
“I just want to get out there on the ice, play hockey and have fun,” said Markov of his first game back. “When you make the decision that you’re in good enough shape to come back and play, there are no excuses anymore. I’m going out there tonight and giving it 100%.”
As grateful as he is about his return, the Russian rearguard made it clear he wanted to avoid being the focal point of Saturday night’s matchup.
“Tonight isn’t about one player. There are 20 guys on this team that go out and play every night. If every one of those guys plays their best, we’ll have success at the end of the night,” noted Markov, who has watched his team struggle with the man-advantage since the start of the season despite building an impressive record over their first 10 games. “We just have to do the simple things and keep putting pucks on the net. Sometimes, when you’re having a tough time, the best thing to do is to go out and get some ugly goals to get yourself back on track.”
Good advice indeed from the power-play specialist who has scored 193 out of 363 of his career points career points with the man-advantage.
One player who will undoubtedly benefit from Markov’s return is the young P.K. Subban
who will play side-by-side with the veteran for the first time Saturday night, and who also filled in for him during last year’s playoff run.
“I don’t think I’d say that I benefited from him not being around. I’m happy I had the chance to play and help the team, but if anything I probably lost out with him not being there because I missed out on the chance to learn from him and pick things up from his experience,” admitted Subban who is also slated to join Markov on the first power-play unit.
“It’s great that he’s going to be playing with the team tonight,” Subban continued. “He’s a world-class player, he brings a lot of skill and talent to the table and I know I’m definitely not the only guy who’s happy to see him back and ready to go.”
Head-coach Jacques Martin is certainly among those happy to see Markov ready for action, and knows just how much impact a player like him can have on the team.
“Andrei obviously has great vision on the ice and moves the puck well. Right now, we want P.K. to keep his game simple and get some good experience playing with Andrei,” explained Martin on his pairing of the prodigy and the veteran. Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOCanadiens look for fifth in a row vs. Panthers Canadiens 3, Islanders 1 Canadiens-Islanders highlightsStarting strong