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Hamrlik steps in for Habs with Markov on shelf

by Arpon Basu
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens have put Roman Hamrlik on their top power-play unit in the absence of injured quarterback Andrei Markov, and they will need to be sharp Tuesday night if they hope to strike against a hot Philadelphia Flyers club.

In addition to the fact the Flyers have scored 18 goals in their last three games, most recently an easy 5-1 win at home against the Ottawa Senators on Monday, Philadelphia has been very stingy on defense with only four goals allowed in those three games.

The Flyers' penalty kill has been perfect over that span on seven chances, while the Canadiens power play is 6-for-15 over their last three games. But when Markov missed the first 10 games of this season, the Canadiens went 3-for-34.

Something will clearly have to give Tuesday night, and the absence of Markov appears to give the edge to the Flyers.

Of course, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin does not agree.

"There's no doubt Andrei helped our power play, but (his absence) wasn't the reason we had difficulties early in the year," Martin said. "We just weren't in sync, we weren't working hard enough, we weren't moving the puck quickly enough, we were trying to be too fancy. Power plays are best when you keep things simplified, when you move the puck quickly, when you move yourself and when you get net presence."

Hamrlik spent a lot of time playing alongside P.K. Subban on the power play in Markov's absence to start the season, and he will be there again Tuesday night.

"Whoever is out there has to do the job, and I've been in this situation before," Hamrlik said. "We just need to play simple and get the puck to the net. Our power play has been playing well lately, and hopefully we can play with that same confidence tonight."

The one nuance Martin brought to the power play was moving Subban over from the right side to the left, where Markov was playing before.
Subban said he didn't know why the switch was made, and he didn't really care, either.

"Wherever they want me to play, I'll play," he said. "I'm just happy to be on the power play."

When Martin was asked what the reason was behind the shift, he dismissed it, choosing instead to focus on Subban's need to continue learning the role of power play quarterback.

"P.K. is a young defenseman that has a lot to learn about playing the power play in the National Hockey League," he said. "The one area we'd like him to get better is anticipating the play, keeping the puck moving. He's helped our power play, he has a good shot, but you need good puck movement."

Filling Hamrlik's spot alongside Spacek on the second unit will be Alexandre Picard, who will play for the first time since Markov returned to the lineup on Oct 30.

"It's a nice surprise," Picard said of the power-play assignment. "Markov is a big piece on the power play and you can't really replace him, but I'll do my best."

The Flyers arrived in Montreal late Monday night and did not skate Tuesday morning, but the Canadiens have a difficult task ahead of them regardless of any fatigue Philadelphia may be feeling.

Head coach Peter Laviolette's team is the hottest in the League with a 9-0-1 record over the last 10 games and the Flyers have five players with at least 10 points over that span: Claude Giroux (13 points), Jeff Carter (12 points), Mike Richards (10 points), Ville Leino (10 points) and Kimmo Timonen (10 points).

"They have the skill, but they don't play around with it too much," Canadiens shutdown defenseman Hal Gill said. "They keep it simple, they get pucks to the net and that's how they generate goals. It's using their skill the right way. They don't waste a lot of skill out there."

This will also be the first chance for the Canadiens to get a tiny bit of revenge for the Flyers eliminating them in five games in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.

"Obviously, they took a lot from us last year," Gill said. "Of course we want to win, but more important is this year and where we're at in the standings."
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