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Canadiens Camp: Markov missing, Cole on top line?

by Arpon Basu
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens are holding their first day on ice at training camp 2012 on Saturday with 60 of the 64 players here strapping on the skates.

The biggest omissions is defenseman Andrei Markov, who is still recovering from December knee surgery and said Friday he is not sure when he will be able to return. In addition, 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc is not skating as he, too, recovers from May shoulder surgery, and fellow prospects Joonas Nattinen (second round, 2009) and Olivier Fortier (second round, 2007) are also injured.

The Canadiens have split the remaining 60 players into three groups, and the way they've been split is of some interest because each of them feature three forwards that could make up the team's top three lines when the regular season begins.

Group A has center Tomas Plekanec with his usual left winger Michael Cammmalleri and free agent acquisition Erik Cole. Group B has Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty, a line that was on fire before Pacioretty's 2010-11 season came to a frightening end when he broke his neck in March. Finally, Group C has Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Andrei Kostitsyn, which could be a dynamic third line for head coach Jacques Martin.

Groups A and B will scrimmage today and the Canadiens will open the stands at their practice facility to let the fans watch. There are 800 available seats that will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, and the lineup for those seats two hours beforehand assures it will be a standing room only crowd.
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