Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov will be out four months with a torn tendon that he suffered on opening night. He isn't expected to return until after the Vancouver Olympics in February.
The veteran defenceman suffered the injury during a collision with goalie Carey Price in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Markov had surgery on Thursday night following the game in Toronto to repair the laceration to his ankle.
"It's not a very nice feeling knowing that it was your skate that did it," Price said. "But then again, you know there's nothing you can really do about it."
Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin acknowledged the loss of Markov but said the team is moving forward with an optimistic outlook.
"No doubt Andrei was our top defenceman but we've added some experience back there, we've added some size and now we feel that our three pairs are going to be asked to do a job," said head coach Jacques Martin. "It's definitely an emotional shock to our players. At the same time, I think they realize that it's an opportunity for somebody else and it may be a situation now where we have to rely on three pairs to do the job."
The Canadiens expect defenceman Roman Hamrlik (flu) to return to their line-up for Saturday's game in Buffalo. It's expected Yannick Weber will also be recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
"It's too bad we lost one of our best defencemen on our team. He's one of the best in the league and there's no way somebody can replace him," Hamrlik said. "But I'm going to do my job and try to help the team win more hockey games."
Montreal is 7-20 with Markov out of the lineup.
"We're going to miss him, there's no question about that," said centre Tomas Plekanec. "But we talked about it a little bit and if you look at last year, Pittsburgh lost (Sergei) Gonchar and (Ryan) Whitney. It happens to other teams too, so we've got to fight through it and it's important for other guys to step up their game and play their marquee role."
Markov, a 30-year-old veteran, is Montreal's top defenceman and has quarterbacked an effective power play over the last few seasons. Last season, he had 12 goals and 52 assists and played in his second consecutive all-star game.