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Squad's all here

Returning Habs boost confidence heading down the stretch

by Vincent Regis, translated by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD -- The band's nearly all back together again.

On Tuesday, Andrei Markov, David Desharnais, and Greg Pateryn all returned from extended absences in a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres in which Markov and Desharnais picked up an assist and a goal, respectively.

Video: BUF@MTL: Desharnais picks out the top corner

On Thursday, it will be Alex Galchenyuk's turn to return to action after the young centerman re-aggravated a knee injury on January 21, forcing him to miss the last three games.

And if the Habs are lucky, Jeff Petry will also be back to face the Flyers, leaving only Brendan Gallagher on the IR.

"It's always a positive to get guys back from injury. I think it brings a boost of energy into the group," explained Petry, who missed Tuesday's game against the Sabres with the flu. "Hopefully everyone stays healthy for the remainder of the year -- that helps build chemistry and gets things going in the right direction."

More than just energy however, adding missing pieces back into the puzzle also brings results.

In his return against Buffalo, Desharnais potted the game winner following a 24-game absence, while Markov for his part took sole possession of second place among the Habs in helpers, with his 20th assist of the season in just his 32nd game.

Video: BUF@MTL: Byron finishes tic-tac-toe passing play

"[Markov's] poise with the puck is irreplaceable -- to have a guy back there who sees the ice so well and is able to make that pass so crisply… We saw it last night, how well he can make those plays, especially on the power play," said Carey Price, who will be back in goal on Thursday in Philadelphia. "It's always great to get guys back. Obviously we've done well without having a full lineup so far this year, but whenever you get guys back it's a morale boost, for sure."

That jolt of positivity also extends beyond the players suiting up for game action, to the ones still awaiting the green light.

"It's always nice, especially seeing Davey score in his first game back. I felt great for him, and I was happy since we basically went through the same process together over the last couple of weeks," admitted Galchenyuk, who still remains among the team's Top 5 goal scorers and point getters, despite missing 21 games. "It was nice to see him come back and be productive. Marky too. It's tough to see guys injured, but you get to appreciate the work ethic they put in to come back."

Video: Galchenyuk on his return to action

The 22-year-old, of course, has been down this road before. Galchenyuk found the back of the net in his initial return from injury following an 18-game absence on January 14, before being sidelined once again just four games later.

"It is what it is. There's nothing we can do about it now. Stuff like that happens, and you've just got to stay positive and do the right thing. I made sure I worked hard to get back, and now I'm ready to go," continued the Milwaukee, WI native, who stresses his game won't change come Thursday. "You can be walking down the stairs in your normal life and fall down. [Accidents] happen; it's a contact sport. Obviously you wish you never get injured, but we all know that isn't realistic. You can't prevent it, but you can stop thinking about it and just go out there and play."

In the end, the Habs' greatest victory over the past two months may have been escaping the injury storm relatively unscathed, now sitting atop the Atlantic Division standings with a 30-14-7 record, good enough for fifth overall in the NHL.

"I thought the guys who were put in the lineup did a great job of seizing the opportunity and playing well. It's not easy to come in and have such high expectations thrown on you, but I thought they did well," underlined Price, as the shorthanded Habs went 8-5-1 through the month of January.

"I think guys stepped up and played different roles, and it wasn't one player who came up to fill the hole," specified Petry. "It was a number of guys, and I think that was the main thing."

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