The Montreal Canadiens moved a step closer to welcoming back a key veteran member of their blue line on Monday.
Injured defencemen Andrei Markov participated in practice in a contact capacity and took regular rushes alongside fellow defenceman Alexei Emelin. It was Markov's first contact at practice since November, when Markov's knee swelled significantly and he was soon shut down. He had an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee in December.
"It's a big difference if you practice with the team or by yourself," Markov said after his first practice with contact. "You have to adjust to the speed of the guys. I need a little bit of time to adjust to that and I think everything is going to be OK."
Head coach Randy Cunneyworth would not commit to a date or game for Markov's return to the lineup, but described the defenceman's performance in practice Monday as, "business as usual."
"He's approved for contact and we'll evaluate that as it goes along," Cunneyworth added.
The 33-year-old has not played for the Canadiens since suffering a knee injury over a year ago in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canadiens re-signed Markov to a three-year contract worth $5.75 million per season last June.