MONTREAL - While the evidence is merely circumstantial at this point, it seems inevitable that Andrei Markov will be out of the Canadiens lineup indefinitely (possibly for the rest of the regular season).

On the bright side, if Markov were to miss the remainder of the regular season it gives the Canadiens the opportunity to exercise their right to replace him with a player of equal or lesser value without implication or penalty for surpassing the salary cap limit. Given Markov's prorated $5.75 million contract, that could amount to the Canadiens acquiring one star-calibre player, or a couple of pretty good players.

I know, I know, not exactly comforting to a fan base that wants to see Markov play after he's missed roughly 49% of the team's games since last year.

On the bright side, Pierre Gauthier has a built-in excuse for not being active at the trade deadline; in the hopes his superstar defenceman can return later in the year and provide the necessary boost to put the Canadiens over the top. Wouldn't want to mess with the chemistry of the team much more...

I know...just kidding.

Any way you look at it at, this situation is an awful one for both the team, and for Markov.

Markov is in his fourth and final year of a contract that paid him $5.75 mil/season; a contract over which he's suffered four major lower-body injuries. Despite his reputation as one of the league's best defencemen and his prowess as one of the most dominant powerplay forces in the game, his lack of durability may have more influence on contract negotiations.

You have to feel for a guy who's suffered so much pain. The mental anguish of repetitive surgery/recovery cycles has to be increasingly infuriating for a 31-year old who was likely hoping for a long-term extension (potentially the last one of his career). He's been terribly unlucky.

I don't care to speculate at this juncture what Markov or the team feels about his return to Montreal after this season. It's premature to suggest the Canadiens should look elsewhere, or that Markov will be best suited to hit the market come July 1st. Unfortunately, for now, we'll all have to wait and see what Markov's status is before jumping to any conclusions.

Habs Have Payback Date with Flyers

As the magic faded on the Canadiens fabled post-season run, the Flyers sprung to the Stanley Cup Finals after doing to the Habs what Washington and Pittsburgh failed to do.

The teams are relatively unchanged, with the Flyers adding role players in the off-season much like the Canadiens did. Both teams are near the top of the conference, and both are now relying on different goaltenders than the ones they rode into the depths of last year's playoffs.

Tonight, when these two excellent teams do battle, two of the league's youngest and hottest goaltenders will be featured.

Price was named the league's top player last week, earning NHL 1st star honours for his dismissal of the Canucks, Bruins and 'Canes, posting a goals-against average of 1.00 over that stretch.

Sergei Bobrovski is 9-0-1 in ten straight starts.

This first test without Andrei Markov has the Canadiens trying to equal their season-high 4-game winning streak. The Canadiens have the opportunity to do so against a Flyers team that was in action last night, when they hosted and beat the Ottawa Senators 5-1.

A win would certainly be considered the biggest one of the season for the Canadiens. This game is an opportunity to beat a top quality rival, and another chance to prove to the fan base that the team can survive without it's best defender.