There is, somewhat inconceivably, a negative aspect to the impending return of Habs defenceman Andrei Markov.
For his prodigious abilities could easily end up threatening Montreal’s chances at picking up a top-two or three draft pick this coming June and filling a glaring organizational need for a big, sniping centre.
This is, of course, the cynical view.
But what if the Russian, who hasn’t been seen in a game uniform since Nov. 13, 2010, actually provides a much-needed boost to the Habs’ 29th-best power-play and a infuses some fresh air into the dressing room?
For all the hacking on Tomas Kaberle, he and Markov could provide as good a one-two puck-moving punch to the man-advantage as any two defencemen in the conference.
That said, the Habs have lost five of six, and if past practice is any indication of future performance, their late winter Western road swing, where past seasons have gone to die, won’t do much to improve their bottom-dwelling ranking in the East.
Fans, then, should rejoice without constraint at the fact Markov, who has had his right knee rebuilt twice since May of 2010, appears ready to rejoin the club.
And it says here that the Habs should probably play the man hard to see if his knee can hold up - hell, send him to the World Championships with the Russian team if that can help answer the question as to whether he can stay healthy and regain something approaching his best form.
On Monday, Markov was cleared for contact and wore a regular-coloured jersey at practice, and though there is officially no timeline for his return, he said “yes, I will play this season.”
Read: at some point in the next week or two.
The mere fact of having Markov in the cut and thrust of a contact practice is cause for optimism in a dressing room that, let’s face it, is down in the dumps as their botched season hits the final stretch.
“We’re excited to see him practising with us . . . he looks better and better every day, it’s great for us to see, but it’s all about him and his health,” said Josh Gorges, who briefly played with Markov two seasons ago.
Coach Randy Cunneyworth was keeping a close eye on the 33-year-old defenceman, who it bears repeating signed a three-year contract extension last summer.
“Every time there was contact, I was kind of looking for a reaction,” said Cunneyworth. “And everything looked like business as usual as far as I was concerned.”