Habs defenceman Roman Hamrlik fighting to be in the lineup against the Leafs

CLERMONT, Que. – Montreal Canadiens defenceman Roman Hamrlik still has a lot of work ahead of him if he’s to be ready for the team’s NHL season-opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

”I’ve hardly got any more pain in the knee, but my form isn’t quite there,” the veteran said Monday as he skated with his teammates for the first time in pre-season training.

”I feel a lot better than a few days ago and the progression is steady.

”But I’ve got to push hard with the guys on the ice. I have to find my reflexes in game situations—the one-on-ones and two-on-twos, etc.”

Hamrlik still has another two practices in the Charlevoix region northeast of Quebec City where the Canadiens are bonding, as well as the game-day skate in Toronto on Thursday morning, to get fit for that night’s action.

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Canadiens coach Jacques Martin isn’t ruling him out of the Leafs game.

Another defenceman, Andrei Markov, is also coming back from injury and is recovering faster than expected from an operation he had on his right knee at the beginning of the summer.

The Russian looked sharp as he skated with his teammates Monday.

But Markov did not skate in the three-on-three drills.

”That’s my big secret,” he replied when asked whether he had a return date in mind.

”I don’t have any limits in my movements but I’m trying to be careful.”

One Hab who is definitely out of the Toronto game is Michael Cammalleri.

The sniper was suspended for one game on Monday after slashing Nino Niederreiter of the New York Islanders on Saturday and picking up a major penalty and a game misconduct.