The Hat Trick: NHL Stars Returning

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent INovember 1, 2010

MONTREAL- APRIL 26:  Andrei Markov #79 of the Montreal Canadiens skates with the puck in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 26, 2010 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Capitals 4-1 tying the series 3-3.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Some more suspensions were handed out this week as the NHL continues to tolerate no extracurricular behavior during games. The league is serious about making the sport safer and throwing the book at repeat offenders that just don’t get the clue. With that said, let’s get to the Pucking Awesome Hat Trick. This week I am looking at three big stars that have returned or are returning to lineups around the NHL.


Canadiens Power Outage

The arrivals started on Saturday with the return of the Montreal Canadiens' top defender, Andrei Markov, from offseason knee surgery. The 31-year-old played his regular 23 minutes with 4:32 of that coming on the power play. The power play is where Markov will have the most impact since Montreal is tied for last in the league, scoring at 7.7 percent.

Of Markov's 283 career assists, 152 have come on the power play; and over half of his 80 goals, 41, have come with the man advantage.

Montreal has shown early that its Cinderella run through the postseason was not all about goalie Jaroslav Halak, as they sit atop the Northeast Division with a 7-3-1 record. 

Mostly it has been the play of Carey Price, but with the addition of their top defender, we can see if the Habs are for real.


Blackhawks Up

Another top defender is expected to make his season debut tonight at Madison Square Garden, as Brian Campbell returns to the defending champions after missing the first 13 games due to a knee sprain.

This reappearance should excite Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook than anyone. Those two defenders, due to suspensions, injuries and bad play by their teammates, have already logged over 715 minutes combined, good for first and second overall in the NHL.

If the Chicago Blackhawks are to defend their title they are going to have to cut those workhorses’ minutes down, and Brian Campbell should help solidify the second unit and take some special teams ice time off their tired hands.


Canucks Agitator

Lastly, one of the NHL’s biggest surprises is set to return this week, as the Vancouver Canucks welcome agitator Alex Burrows back from offseason shoulder surgery. This is huge news for a team that has started slowly with a 4-3-2 record and has given up as many goals as they have scored (24).

The 29-year-old solidified the Canucks top line with a career high 35 goals and 67 points and was an amazing +34 while aggravating the heck out of opponents with 121 penalty minutes. Last season he and Henrik Sedin combined for 129 points, as Henrik won the Hart Trophy and the undrafted free agent Burrows won the Heart Trophy.

The Canucks have used 10 different wingers alongside the talented Sedin twins and it will be nice for Coach Alain Vigneault to have his top line back together so he can figure out the other line combinations. One positive has been the ability of the rest of the team to step up in Burrows' absence, showing the team's depth.