PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The Montreal Canadiens' injury-riddled defence could be getting a boost for Wednesday night?s Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Andrei Markov and Hal Gill both took part in the Canadiens morning skate Wednesday, and head coach Jacques Martin said they are both game-time decisions.
Gill suffered a cut on his left calf in Game 5 when Penguins winger Chris Kunitz?s skate accidentally came down on his leg. Markov reportedly tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Game 1 when he was hit cleanly by Matt Cooke and fell awkwardly into the boards.
Gill took the pre-game warmup prior to Game 6 in Montreal on Monday before being ruled out, and Martin said it will be the same situation for Game 7.
Markov was ruled out by Martin prior to Game 6, but he wouldn?t go that far this time.
?It was the first time he skated with the team (since suffering his injury),?Martin said.?He?s getting closer, but at this point I don?t know how ready he is to play.?
Markov, skating with a bulky brace on the injured knee, was paired with Jaroslav Spacek at the morning skate, while Gill was with his regular partner Josh Gorges.
Markov spent extra time on the ice with the other scratches for Game 7, which would normally suggest he will not play.
But Martin definitely left the door open for Markov?s return.
?Anytime you get players back it?s a boost to your lineup,?Gorges said of the hypothetical possibility of having Gill and Markov back.?Especially a guy like Hal with what he?s done in these playoffs and how important he?s been. And Markie, I mean, any time you get a player of his calibre back in your lineup it?s a boost for your team. Not only mentally knowing he?s out there, but everything he brings to the table.?
The Canadiens got Spacek back after a nine-game absence in Game 6, a mystery virus that was affecting his balance having fully cleared up.
Spacek played 18 minutes 25 seconds and looked to pick up where he left off, scoring Montreal?s third goal. He said Wednesday that there were no lingering effects from his illness and he should be fine for Game 7.
?I felt 100 per cent last game,?Spacek said.?I wouldn?t come back if I didn?t feel that way.?
Should Gill or Markov be ready to play in Game 7, it would likely mean that Marc-Andre Bergeron would go back to playing forward in a fourth-line role so he can be used on the power play, much like he did in the second half of the regular season.
?That?s why I was out there practising my faceoffs today,?Bergeron joked.
If both Gill and Markov are ready, Ryan O?Byrne risks being scratched because Martin said Wednesday he would not dress eight defencemen.
On the Penguins side, there should be few lineup changes for Game 7.
Head coach Dan Bylsma wouldn?t confirm anything, but Alexei Ponikarovsky spent the morning skate on Evgeni Malkin?s left wing so he should be returning after being scratched the past two games. Mark Letestu risks being scratched if that?s the case.