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Montreal captain Gionta eyeing Saturday return

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens - Game Three

MONTREAL, CANADA - APRIL 18: Brian Gionta #21 of the Montreal Canadiens skates in warmup before Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 18, 2011 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

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The embattled Montreal Canadiens got some good news on Tuesday as captain Brian Gionta returned to practice. The 32-year-old had been sidelined since suffering a groin injury against Vancouver on Dec. 8 and has missed Montreal’s last 10 games.

“It felt good, nice to be back out there, getting into the swing of things,” Gionta told the Montreal Gazette. “It’s been a long road and [rehab] is part of it. You want to be out there with the guys practicing, taking steps in the right direction.”

It’s been tough sledding for the Habs with Gionta on the shelf. In his absence they’ve gone 3-7, fired Jacques Martin, hired budding French student Randy Cunneyworth on an interim basis and acquired Tomas Kaberle. Oh yeah, Tomas Plekanec also fought PK Subban in practice, which was an embarrassment both the organization and fighting.

As for when Gionta will return? It won’t be tonight against Winnipeg (which is a key battle with the Jets are eight points clear of Montreal for ninth in the East) -- but both he and the organization are hopeful for a return to the lineup Saturday against Tampa Bay.