MONTREAL – With only three games left in the regular season, the Montreal Canadiens are playing it safe with all-star goaltender Carey Price.
Price will be examined Wednesday by team physician Dr. David Mulder to determine whether his headaches are a sign of something more serious. He’ll miss Montreal’s game against Tampa Bay that night and is doubtful for a game in Carolina on Thursday.
“He needs further evaluation and we’re going to give him that,” Montreal interim coach Randy Cunneyworth said after practice Tuesday.
“I’m trying to be as honest as possible but it’s still an ongoing process here. He’s still being diagnosed.”
Price was struck on the head during a practice Thursday when teammate David Desharnais landed on him during a 2-on-1 drill, though he still made his 65th start of the season in a 4-1 road loss to the New York Rangers the following night.
Price informed the team of his symptoms on Monday.
“Carey usually doesn’t stay down very often,” Desharnais said. “He was a bit shaken up. I fell right on his head.”
The diminutive centre fell hard enough that he hurt his ribs from the contact with Price’s mask.
“He was complaining a little bit after the practice, just joking around that he had headaches because of me and stuff like that,” Desharnais said. “But I guess it’s not a joke right now.”
Desharnais was relieved to see Price continue with the rest of the practice, which took place while team owner Geoff Molson held a press conference to announce the firing of general manager Pierre Gauthier.
Though Cunneyworth was aware of Thursday’s collision, he said he was among the last to learn that Price was not feeling right.
“Davy was doing exactly what we designed the drill to do, getting on top of the goaltender and driving hard to the net,” Cunneyworth said.
The Canadiens, who are likely to finish last in the Eastern Conference, have not confirmed a report that Price has a concussion. Such a diagnosis would trigger a concussion protocol that would effectively end Price’s season.
The Habs wrap their season with a home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
“You don’t automatically go there just because you get a headache,” Cunneyworth said. “Obviously you want to go through it if it’s truly the case but it is a lengthy process. And right now there are time constraints, but obviously we’re not going to mistreat anybody and misdiagnose.”
Defenceman Josh Gorges also only found out that Price was not feeling right on Monday.
“He’s the kind of guy that goes about his business no matter how he feels,” Gorges said. “He’s going to come to the rink and work hard and put the effort in. We didn’t notice any difference in him. He was the same as always but obviously there’s something that’s been bothering him for the last little while.”
Gorges had no problem seeing how Price went ahead and played in New York, even if he was feeling any lingering effects from the collision.
“Everyone has headaches,” Gorges said. “When you wake up the next day after a game I’d say 90 per cent of the guys have a headache. So you never really know the next day or two days later if you’re just feeling groggy or dehydrated, you’re tired, or if it’s something like a concussion.
“And sometimes as players you don’t want to go and say anything either. You want to be there fighting and playing so it’s no different in his situation where he wanted to play and didn’t tell anybody and no one knew. So we just hope that it’s nothing serious and he’ll be healthy here soon.”
Backup goalie Peter Budaj will face Tampa Bay after making a scheduled start in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss in Washington.
“He doesn’t feel really horrible, that it’s alarming, but definitely you’ve got to stay on top of it because it’s a dangerous game,” said Budaj, who will make consecutive starts for the first time this season.
The Canadiens called up goalie Robert Mayer from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. The club also recalled forward Gabriel Dumont, who will make his NHL debut against the Lightning.
NOTES: Gorges was named the winner of the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy, beating out Desharnais as the team’s unsung hero in voting by local members of the media. Rookie defenceman Alexei Emelin and forwards Mathieu Darche and Lars Eller also drew votes.