Markov sparks Habs upon return

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

The only thing stopping the determined Andrei Markov these days is a frosty blast of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Markov and his Montreal Canadiens were standed in the New York area in the wee hours yesterday when the icy winter storm slamming the eastern seaboard kept the team charter from departing for Atlanta.

After eating on the plane, the team was transported back to a Long Island hotel, where they waited for the blizzard to subside.

Yet even a liberal dumping of snow could not dampen the birthday celebrations of Markov, who turned 31 yesterday.

Not after the splash he made several hours earlier during his return to the Canadiens lineup after a 35-game absence.

Markov’s remarkable two-goal performance in the Canadiens 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders Saturday night once again proved that the veteran defenceman is the most vital cog on the Montreal roster.

Not Mike Cammalleri. Or Carey Price. Or Brian Gionta.

And the Canadiens could not be getting him back at a better time. Montreal’s win snapped a five-game losing skid, moving them to within two points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the eastern conference.

Markov was injured in Montreal’s season opener against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre when his tendon was sliced by a skate blade. The original diagnosis called for him to be out four months, meaning Markov is back six weeks earlier than predicted.

Markov will return to the scene of the crime Saturday when the Habs face the Leafs at the ACC.

Back in black

While on the subject of returning players, it is good to see Philadelphia Flyers sniper Simon Gagne back on the ice.

Gagne, a member of Canada’s 2004 gold medal Olympic team, saw his hopes of playing his way onto the 2010 roster pretty much squashed when he was forced to undergo abdominal surgery earlier this season, causing him to miss 24 games.

Like Markov, he had an immediate impact on the scoresheet in his return, assisting on the Flyers lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers Saturday.

Gagne is no stranger to adversity.

Less than two years ago a series of concussions left Gagne’s career in doubt. As a result, he takes nothing in the sport for granted.

“You never really know how you are going to feel until you start playing again,” he said.

Scout’s honour

With five picks in the first two rounds of the 2010 NFL draft, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is doing a lot of first-hand scouting.

Chiarelli recently was in Brampton to watch highly-touted Windsor Spitfire forward Taylor Hall, who is expected to be one of the offensive leaders for Canada at the upcoming World Junior championship.

“I like to see some of these guys myself,” Chiarelli said. “This is expected to be a deep draft, with a couple of potential franchise players (Hall and Tyler Seguin) at the top.

“I’ll admit we’ve put a few extra resources into the scouting for this draft, but it is one that will be key for the future of our franchise.”

Hero worship

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas could not believe his eyes when his childhood hockey hero walked into the team’s Toronto hotel Saturday.

It wasn’t Bobby Orr. Or Gerry Cheevers.

“His name is Mike Rusin and he played for the Flint Generals, my hometown, when I was growing up,” a beaming Thomas said afterward. “There wasn’t a lot of hockey on TV at the time, so the Generals were big. I can’t want to tell my dad I met Mike Rusin.”

Rusin, 53, was a rugged defenceman who registered 344 penalty minutes for the IHL General’s in 1977-78.

“To have an NHLer like Tim Thomas be so thrilled to meet you is a dream come true,” said Rusin, 53, who runs a NAPA auto parts garage in the Sudbury area.

Helping to orchestrate the meeting was longtime Bruins scout Bob Tindall, who started making arrangements after learning Rusin was Thomas’s idol.

The week ahead

The Los Angeles Kings, who faced the Calgary Flames Dec. 17, do not play again until Boxing Day ... The NHL’s roster freeze, which kicked in on Saturday, runs all the way through Sunday.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos