The Montreal Canadiens could have their top defenceman back in the lineup as soon as this weekend.
Andrei Markov was cleared for contact drills Monday and the club will seek final clearance from team doctors later this week. They are targeting Markov's return for Friday or Saturday.
Markov had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, an injury he suffered in the opening game of last year's Eastern Conference semi-final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Markov was checked into the boards by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke and needed to be assisted off the ice.
Without Markov, the Canadiens power play has sputtered, with one goal in 24 chances through seven games, which is last in the NHL.