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Notebook - March 5, 2012

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – The Canadiens hopped on the ice on Monday morning in Brossard before jetting off to Western Canada to take on the Flames, the Oilers and Canucks. The players practiced alongside Canadiens veteran Andrei Markov, who seems closer than ever to a comeback.

Hello again: The 33-year-old defenseman, who’s been out of the lineup due to knee surgery since the beginning of the season has been seeing more and more play since he started practicing with the team in a white jersey.

“I'm cleared for contact so I’m just happy to practice with the team”, said Markov who’s been playing in the Habs jersey since 2000. “I need a little bit more time to practice with the team and as soon I feel I am ready to go I’m going to play.”

Montreal’s sixth round pick of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft knows it’s not an easy road to recovery, and things do need some polishing.

“It’s a big difference if you practice with the team and if you practice by yourself,” shared Markov. “You have to adjust to the speed of the guys. I need a little bit more time to adjust that but I think I’ll be OK.

“Maybe I’m going to score two goals on my first shift. You never know,” said the Russian player with a straight face. “It’s a game and like I said before it’s not going to be easy but I think I’m going to be ready.”

When you overcome: After being taken out of the game March 8, 2011 and coming back at the start of the 2011-2012 season to become Montreal’s high goal scorer, Max Pacioretty seems like the perfect candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. A trophy awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.

“He’s having an incredible year after what might have been a very serious injury,” said Josh Gorges of fellow teammate Pacioretty. “We all know his potential as a player, but you never know how someone will cope after such an incident. He’s surpassing everyone’s expectations.”

The New Canaan, CT native was the first player in the Habs jersey to top the 25-goal milestone this season.

“It’s just a proof of his dedication and all the hard work he put in last summer to be ready for the start of this season,” continued Gorges. “I think he proves to everyone in the locker room what you can accomplish when you put in the work.

“He’s grown a lot. He knows what it takes to be successful,” added the defenseman. “His preparation outside of the rink is excellent. He understands more his role on the ice and his confidence keeps growing, making him even better.”

Last year’s Montreal candidate, Mathieu Darche, was announced April 9, 2011.

Road trip: A few minutes after Monday’s practice, the Canadiens jumped on a bus that would take them to Dorval for what would be this season’s longest trip. With more than 10, 000 kilometres of travelling to do in seven days, and four games to play, this is far from Spring break for Randy Cunneyworth’s pupils.

“We prepare as much as we would for a four-game marathon than a one-game trip. All we do is bring a little bit more clothes,” laughed Lars Eller who was hurrying to get his things ready after morning practice. “It’ll be good to go out West with the guys. It helps the chemistry. You can’t underestimate the kind bond that comes out of trips like these.”

The young Danish player knows that it takes more than a trip to create good vibes within the team.

“Obviously what we want are wins, because that will influence the other things,” confessed Eller who has a career-high 23 points this season. “The better we play, the more fun we’ll have on this trip.”

On Tuesday, Rene Bourque and the Canadiens will take on Michael Cammalleri and the Flames for the first time since the January 12, 2012 trade.

Lee Anne Vincent O'Connor is a writer for

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