Markov returns to the Ice UPDATE: Could return before New Year!

Edit: Please check out Fred Poulin's piece on Benoit Pouliot, which I inadvertingly cock-blocked with my latest blog, and don't forget to leave your comments!

Update 12:15PM: RDS.ca is now reporting that Markov could very well be returning to the line-up as early as the end of December. He will start working out at a higher pace in December. We can only hope that he's actually ahead of schedule, and not only doing this to make the Olympics.

More to come

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Update 2:30PM:

Markov interview after he practice.

He says he's happy, uncomfortable but happy to be back on the ice. He's eyeing an early year return.

Habs Inside/Out has the full 14 minutes of audio from his interview.

He'll definitely be back before the Olympics, but no update on whether he plans to be a part of Team Russia in Vancouver next year.

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For the first time since October 1st, the Canadiens number one defenseman and overall best player skated briefly this morning at the Habs' practice facility in Brossard. CorusSports and RDS were the first to break the story on their twitter accounts.

Although it wasn't for long, and for all we know, he could have been severely uncomfortable and have decided he wasn't ready yet (knock on wood), it's a good sign for the Habs, who are severely depleted on the blue line and are having big troubles defensively, having been outshot, sometimes baddly, in 5 of their last 6 games, and many more times since the season began.

An early return for the Canadiens would mean stability on the back-end as well as improved special teams. There is no updated timetable for Markov's return, however he was scheduled for a February return when news of his injury first broke. If the Canadiens can get him back around the new year, it would be excellent news for a group that was missing 9 skaters from their opening season line-up, which translates to 43% of their salaries and half the line-up.

As a result, the Habs are 12-12-1 on the season, a respectable record for a severely injured group with many AHL players in their line-up, all culminating in a 3-1 loss to the Stanley Cup Champion and Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins last night. While Carey Price kept the team in it, it was a gritty effort from the Habs, who were on the tail end of a back-to-back situation, led by Max Pacioretty, who had arguably his best game in the NHL, as well as Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec (big surprise), who had many of the Canadiens scoring chances.

So while there's nothing to be truly happy about coming out of last night's game if you're a Habs fan, there's also nothing to complain about, really, and some very good news coming out of the Markov situation.

The only other players to skate were concussed forward Matt D'Agostini (who will probably make his return sometime next week), and suspended tough guy Georges Laraque. The rest of the team opted for off-ice practice and team meetings.

Edit: Add injured skaters Gomez, Spacek, and newly acquired Benoit Pouliot to the list of players who skated, thanks to Dave Stubbs of Habs Inside/Out on Twitter.

The Habs next game will be Saturday Night at the Bell Centre against the Washington Capitals, who may or may not be with their star forward Alexander Ovechkin, after last night's questionable hit on Patrick Kaleta.

More on the Markov situation as the information becomes available.

Prax
www.thecheckingline.com
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