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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
After two injury-filled seasons, Andrei Markov sets poised to make his mark on the 2012-2013 season. Woefully missed from the line-up the last two years, Markov's return should stabilize the defence core and spark the powerplay. But with two significant injuries to the same knee, one must wonder if he has truly lost a step. Will Markov regain his status as an elite defenceman, or are his best days behind him?
Markov returned to the Canadiens' roster for the last 13 games, and the rust from missing the greater part of two seasons was evident. Although the points weren't there, the skill level still clearly was, and Markov quietly bolstered the defensive corps while playing reduced minutes. He still saw significant minutes on the powerplay, but as the entire team struggled, so did Markov, leaving him with the lowest point-per-game average of his career.
Season Stats: 13 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 33 PTS, -4 rating, 4 PIM, 2 PPP, 17 shots, 18:00 ATOI
Even if Markov is at full health, it is uncertain if he will be playing the same number of minutes he played prior to his injuries. P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges formed a formidable shut-down duo last year, and will probably face the opposition's top players again. This would leave Andrei with decreased even-strength and penalty-killing minutes, but would likely give him dibs on the first wave of the powerplay. Not only will this protect his seemingly fragile body, but it should improve various fantasy category totals. Markov's defensive partner is uncertain, although it is assumed that he will be playing alongside his countryman, Alexei Emelin. But depending on how the roster shakes out, he could be playing with Yannick Weber or Raphael Diaz at even strength, and even Tomas Kaberle on the PP.
Markov's point contribution is one of the biggest question marks coming into the 2012-13 season. Prior to his injuries, he hovered consistently around 50 points and put up between 20-30 powerplay points. Based on what we saw last season, it's hard to expect similar numbers, but Markov's skill, off-season conditioning and great hockey I.Q. may compensate for age and injuries. He should still see plenty of time on the powerplay, and his plus-minus may be improved by less defensive responsibilities. With his injuries, Markov represents a high risk/high reward scenario, and should only be slotted as your 3rd or 4th defenceman, lest he lose a step (or a season). Most should be apprehensive about drafting Markov at this point, so don't be afraid to let him slide in your pre-draft rankings.
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