On the shelf since the first game of the season with a lacerated tendon in his foot, the veteran blue-liner is poised to make his highly anticipated return this Saturday on Long Island. The original prognosis had Markov slated to come back only at the end of January, but the shifty rearguard is expected to join new D partner Ryan O’Byrne on the Habs’ blue line this week and Marc-Andre Bergeron will move up to forward. Without the Russian All-Star in the lineup, the Habs have posted a 14-18-3 record so far this season. In the previous four campaigns, the Canadiens have won just six of 27 games when Markov hasn’t been in uniform.
Once again this season, the Canadiens are headed off on an extended road trip, with a little homemade turkey and stuffing mixed in between. The upcoming seven game voyage will be the longest of the season for Jacques Martin and his squad.
With so many cities and so little time, there is no shortage of stops on the Canadiens’ itinerary. New York, Atlanta, Raleigh, Toronto and Ottawa are up first, before the Habs make their annual stopover in sunny Florida for back-to-back games against the Lightning and the Panthers.
The traditional layover in the Sunshine State dates back to 1995-96, when the Habs used to fly off from the Forum for at least four games on the road at the end of December. The trip frees up space in the amphitheatre for longer-running shows, which this year includes the Cirque de Soleil masterpiece, Alegria. The only year the team spent the entire duration of the holidays in Montreal was in 1999-00.
To date, the Canadiens have played 68 road games over the course of the 13-year tradition. Their hosts have been less than gracious in those outings, giving the Habs a 24-34-10 record in that span. On the up side, the visitors have posted a positive record in the past two seasons, owning a 6-2-2 dossier heading into this year.
During the two week business trip, one date in particular is likely circled on the Martin’s calendar. The Canadiens have not registered a win on December 23 since 1945, beating the Boston Bruins that Christmas Eve-Eve. While they haven’t posted a W on that date in a while, eight of those 18 games have finished in a tie.
The Habs will be looking to the more recent past for inspiration, hoping to build on last years three wins and one loss during the holiday trip.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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Quiet on the set! Annnd ACTION!