Canadiens getting healthy: Roman Hamrlik and Andrei Markov return to practice

andreimarkov1.jpgEven though the season has yet to begin, the Montreal Canadiens are getting dose of good news. While they’re slated to start the year without the services of defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Andrei Markov, things aren’t far off from returning to normal. The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey tells us that both players rejoined the team at practice today.

Hamrlik, who suffered a strained knee in a late-summer workout with Jaroslav Spacek, said he felt good and, while he didn’t want to make any predictions, it appears he will play in Toronto.

“I want to take it one day at a time, but it’s feeling better every day,” Hamrlik said.

“It was great,” Markov said when asked about rejoining his teammates. “It was a good feeling and I’m looking forward. My knee feels good.”

Markov underwent surgery in May to repair knee-ligament damage and the original prognosis was for a return in late November. He’s well ahead of that schedule, but refused to speculate when he would be able to play.

“That’s my big secret,” Markov said when asked when he would return. “I don’t have a special date. I want to take it step by step. I feel better and better every day. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”

Having Hamrlik ready to go right away is huge for the team and while getting Markov back next month still sounds bleak, the lift he’ll provide for the team overall will be huge. Getting them on the ice to practice for the first time at all during camp is a good way to get the team fired up to start the year.

Then again, if they actually needed that lift to kick things off considering they’ll be starting their season against their hated rivals in Toronto, perhaps the Habs will be in some trouble. Defensively, the Canadiens are a deep team but offsetting Markov’s absence is where the presence of P.K. Subban comes in handy from an offensive perspective.

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)