Markov still hoping to play this season
Markov moved a step closer to that when he joined his teammates for Friday's morning skate in Washington and Saturday's practice in Sunrise, Fla. after arthroscopic knee surgery back on Dec. 5. He sported a non-contact jersey both times.
"It's been a long time since I've practiced with the team so I feel good. I'm happy to be back with the team," he told reporters. "I can't tell you exactly the time or the date (I'll be back), but I'm trying to push hard and feel better every day."
It's the natural progression in his rehab, forced to reboot after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. At that time, Markov appeared to be on the verge of a return. He had joined the team on their California trip and practiced with them in Anaheim. When the Canadiens moved on to San Jose following their game against the Ducks, confusion reigned.
Markov wasn't on the ice and his whereabouts seemed to be unknown. The team finally confirmed he had stayed behind to meet with a doctor in the Los Angeles area.
That eventually led to his most recent surgery, required to clean out debris. He had been operated on nearly a year earlier after re-injuring the knee in a collision with Carolina's Eric Staal on Nov. 13, 2010. That was seven months after the first surgery, the injury a result of an awkward fall when hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke in the 2010 playoffs.
It's been a lengthy and frustrating road back for the Canadiens' top defenseman. As if the slow progress wasn't enough, he's had to watch his team sink to the Eastern Conference basement without being able to help.
"It's not easy," Markov said of spending the season on the sidelines. "I'd prefer to play than to sit in the press box or the dressing room. Believe me, it's not fun. It's not easy but I try to deal with that and try to do my best."
But while he is anxious for a return, he's smart enough to know that coming back just for the sake of it isn't worth it.
"It's a tough recovery for me," he said. "I don't want to just play one game and have another injury or surgery. I want to continue to play and play a full season next season."
As does the team.
"I think both sides understand," Markov said. "Nobody's pushing me to be back early. They're giving me the time to recover, to be 100 percent. The hockey rule is if you step on the ice, you have to give 100 percent every night.
"I don't want to play for 75 percent. I want to give my best every night."
Something the struggling Canadiens could desperately use.