The hit Matt Cooke delivered to Montreal's Andrei Markov Friday in Game 1 sent Markov back to Montreal.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins got the better of Montreal in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series Friday night, 6-3.
Saturday, things were more even as both teams dealt with the aftermath of an injury to a top player.
While the Penguins were somewhat forthcoming about the status of center Jordan Staal, who had surgery to repair a tendon in his right foot, the Canadiens were fairly tight-lipped about top defenseman Andrei Markov.
Coach Jacques Martin declined to give specifics about Markov, except to confirm that he flew to Montreal Friday night for medical evaluation, will miss Game 2 today and is out "indefinitely." He discounted reports that Markov had surgery.
It appeared Markov's right knee was injured when he took a clean shoulder-on-shoulder hit from Penguins winger Matt Cooke in the first period Friday.
To give Penguins followers perspective on Markov's importance to the Canadiens, Martin compared the 6-foot, 207-pounder to Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar -- a leader on the blue line and quarterback of the power play.
Montreal dressed seven defensemen for Game 1 and so finished the game with a full contingent. Martin declined to say who would be added to the lineup today.
It will not be so easy long-term to cover the loss of a player who before Friday led the Canadiens in the postseason in ice time, an average of 26 minutes, 26 seconds, and had four assists and 18 blocked shots.
Markov missed two months early in the regular season because of torn tendons in his left foot. Montreal went 14-20-3 in his absence.
"Every team deals with injuries, and that's why you have extra bodies around," Martin said. "You expect more from the individuals that are dressed to play.
"In particular, [we'll look to] an individual like Roman Hamrlik, who played some big minutes in the first half of the season in the absence of Andrei. As well, I think our group as a whole, our six [defensemen] are going to have to fill that spot, fill that void, and our forwards are going to have to help out."
Hamrlik, while calling Markov's injury "a big loss," is willing to step in.
"I think I can do that," he said. "It happened at the beginning of the season when [Markov] was out, and I got a big chance and trust from the coaches. I got lots of ice time and I felt comfortable out there.
"The last two or three games with P.K. [Subban] or whoever I play with, I feel pretty comfortable."
Subban, a touted rookie with a lot of offensive oomph, helped fill in on the power play after Markov got hurt.
The Canadiens will not get a boost from the return of defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who has missed the past five games with an undisclosed ailment.
"Spacek will be out [today]," Martin said. "At this point in time, I can't say [about Game 3 or beyond]. He's dealing with an issue that takes time. It could be better in two days, but, at this time, I don't know."
The Penguins were wary of eyeing Markov's injury as an advantage, although center Sidney Crosby noted, "It's tough to replace any guy that plays those minutes and is a big part of their team."
The parallel of injured players struck Crosby.
"We're dealing with the same thing," he said. "That's the bottom line. That's the way the playoffs work."