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Pk Subban of Canada celebrates with national flag winning the gold medal at the 2008 IIHF World U20 Ice Hockey Championships in Pardubice, some 130 kilometers (about 85 miles) east of Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. Canada defeated Sweden 3-2 in overtime and got the 4th consecutive junior title. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek ) (Petr David Josek)
Pk Subban of Canada celebrates with national flag winning the gold medal at the 2008 IIHF World U20 Ice Hockey Championships in Pardubice, some 130 kilometers (about 85 miles) east of Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. Canada defeated Sweden 3-2 in overtime and got the 4th consecutive junior title. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek ) (Petr David Josek)

Habs' Subban has big skates to fill Add to ...

In his first road playoff game, he didn't rate a stall at all, changing on folding chairs set up in the middle of the room.

By his second, in Pittsburgh's grotty Mellon Arena, Montreal Canadiens wunderkind P.K. Subban's chair had moved to the wall at the end of the visitors' dressing room.

But after playing 15:52 and scoring his first NHL goal on Friday - he know has four points in five career games in the big league - perhaps Subban will now rate a proper locker.

After all, Andrei Markov's will be empty for Sunday's game two.

The Russian defenceman flew back to Montreal late Friday night after a Matt Cooke hit left him with an undisclosed leg injury - believed to be a knee - and coach Jacques Martin said "he'll be out indefinitely" while indicating he has not undergone surgery.

The task to replace him in game two against the defending Stanley Cup champions now falls to a defensive corps that boasts a 20-year-old rookie as its best skater and puck mover - and likely power-play quarterback.

"(Subban)'s very patient with the puck, and has lots of speed. He has so much confidence with the pack, it's what makes him so good," said veteran Roman Hamrlik, a player whose form will go a long way to determining whether the Habs can overcome Markov's loss.

Another who will have to find a new gear is Marc-Andre Bergeron, and offensively-gifted but otherwise limited defenceman who spent much of game one playing with Subban.

"He's been great, he's amazing with the puck, and has a lot of qualities as a hockey player, he skates well, he handles the puck really well," said Bergeron, who has shared the same ice with other young blue line prodigies like Washington's Tom Poti and Minnesota's Brett Burns.

Martin would surely like to add the veteran presence of Jaroslav Spacek to the defence, but the Czech rearguard is still suffering from a virus and is not yet game-ready.

The Penguins are facing an injury crisis of their own - influential centre Jordan Staal suffered a torn foot tendon after Subban's skate sliced across the top of his foot during a second-period collision.

Staal, who scored a goal in game one, is officially listed as day-to-day, although Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma conceded he had surgery (which he termed "a procedure").

It's perhaps indicative of the gap between these teams that Bylsma can count on Maxime Talbot, who scored the Cup-winning goal last year, to move over from the wing. Or Craig Adams, another battle-tested veteran.

Though the Pens won handily in game one, 6-3, and scored a franchise record-tying four power-play goals, they weren't especially happy with their five-on-five play.

"I think we want to get more shots, there's no doubt when you put pucks on net you wear other teams down, you get chances and eventually that helps," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who notched two assists to extend his lead atop the playoff scoring table.

Though the Canadiens lost the first engagement of this battle, they are far from crestfallen.

Habs forward Brian Gionta, who scored a power-play goal to bring the Canadiens to within two in the third period, said his team created a lot of chances to score, and pointed out that they played the Pens to a draw while five-on-five.

"We had a lot of good opportunities, we were able to get some behind (Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre) Fleury," he said. "But it's that special teams battle, you win that, do a better job of that, it's a tighter game."

The Habs, who played a game seven in Washington on Wednesday and will suit up for a matinee on Sunday less than 40 hours after leaving the ice Friday, gave most of their regulars the day off.

Only seven players took to the ice, including second-line winger Andrei Kostitsyn, who played only 10 minutes and ended game one on the fourth line.

Several members of the Canadiens played an impromptu game of soccer in a park near their downtown Pittsburgh hotel, and after a team lunch watched Saturday's wild and woolly game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.

"You use that day between games to regroup mentally and physically," Gionta said. "I try to relax, it's a long day, obviously, when you're not doing anything. You get a workout in, get a sweat . . . then you just try to take your mind off things and catch up on some much-needed relaxation."

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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