BROSSARD -- Brian Gionta celebrates a one-year anniversary, Brandon Prust debuts a new look and Andrei Markov returns to Brossard for his first unofficial practice with his Habs teammates since returning from the KHL.
Even with every member of the 2012-13 edition of the Canadiens raring for the latest NHL campaign to kick off, it’s hard to believe any of them are more anxious for the puck to drop than Brian Gionta
. Following a difficult season steeped in frustration and injury, it’s almost apt that the Habs captain will get the chance to finally begin training camp only days after the one-year anniversary of the injury that ended his season in 2012.
“It was pure frustration at the time. I knew what the injury was, I knew it wasn’t good and I knew that it was going to require surgery,” recalled Gionta, who used his downtime during the lockout to guarantee he would come back as strong as possible from the tear to his right bicep, sustained on Jan. 10, 2012 against St. Louis. “I used the time to make sure that everything was strengthened the right way and healed up the right way. I tried to turn an unfortunate situation into a positive and make the most of it.”
|Andrei Markov was back in Brossard on Friday for his first unofficial practice with his Habs teammates. |
Now, with a shortened season and a fresh start on the horizon, the Canadiens captain knows full well that there’s no better time to make up for lost opportunity than the present.
“It’s been a long time, I feel good, and now I’m just waiting to get back out there and play,” said Gionta. “With the changes that were made to the organization this summer, everybody was excited and we were all ready in September to get going. But, now it’s January and it’s basically a sprint to the end so we have to be prepared for that, night in and night out.”
Mane attraction: With a truncated schedule and even more importance and intensity heaped on every game, 2012-13 looks to be a rough one, physically, for players – especially ones that have a reputation for dropping the gloves as much as new Habs winger, Brandon Prust.
“It’s a tough job, but it’s the one that I’ve chosen. I’ve got no problems with sticking up for my teammates and trying to provide a little spark in the way I can when it’s needed,” explained Prust, who led the NHL in 2011-12 with 20 fights. “I’m going to have to be smart about things this season and make sure my body has the time it needs to heal up. Making sure you’re ready is the key, if not it’s easy to get hurt. It’ll be a little different for sure, but I’m anxious for things to get started.”
In the spirit of being ready for any scraps that may come his way, the 28-year-old forward opted to give himself an edge this season with a trip to the barbershop.
“It’s great. I even feel quicker and lighter when I’m out there on the ice. It’s definitely different, but I got a little lazy with haircuts during the lockout,” shared Prust, who recently chopped off the long mane he’d been growning over the last few months. “At least I won’t have to deal with hair in my face anymore whenever I drop the gloves.”
KHL to NHL: Even though Andrei Markov may have been the Hab that had to make the longest trip back to Canada, the veteran defenseman was clearly in high spirits during a meeting with the media after his first unofficial on-ice session with his Montreal teammates.
“It’s nice to be back in the dressing room and back on the ice with the guys,” began Markov, also adding he's arriving in Montreal in excellent shape. “I’m feeling good and strong. It’s great to be able to start training camp in good health.”
After playing 21 games with the Chekov Vityaz in the KHL over the course of the winter, Markov is confident he won’t have any trouble readjusting to North American hockey.
“To be honest with you, it’s a pretty different game over there. The size of the rinks and the style of play are both different. I enjoy playing on the smaller ice surfaces that we have here,” added Markov with a grin. “I feel like I just got done playing my preseason games there, so I’m ready.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
Back to business
Supporting the future
VIDEO: Welcome back, hockey!