Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price took a small step forward Monday, returning to the ice ahead of practice to get some work in, but the good news of Price skating comes with the bad news that he’ll be sidelined for yet another game to start the season.
Canadiens backup Al Montoya told reporters following Monday’s practice that it will be he, not Price, who starts in the home opener Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Montoya’ getting the nod Tuesday not only marks the third-consecutive start for the 31-year-old, who was inked to a one-year, $950,000 deal and is earning his keep early in the campaign, but it also signals the start of the second full week in which the Canadiens head into action not knowing when Price will return.
Reports of Price’s activity Monday were promising, though. According to NHL.com’s Arpon Basu, Price “did drills with goaltending coach Stephane Waite for approximately 40 minutes before leaving the ice as the Canadiens were about to begin practice.” Basu noted that Price also worked out with teammates before practice, as well.
Price, 29, was diagnosed with the flu on Oct. 10, and it was originally believed he would be ready for the Canadiens’ season-opener against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 14. He was forced to miss that game, however, and then missed Montreal’s following outing on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
When Price was ruled out for Saturday’s game, the Canadiens announced that Price was dealing with a “severe case of flu,” and said their star netminder was resting at home in Montreal while being evaluated daily by the Canadiens’ team doctor, Dr. David Mulder.
The three-game absence to start the season means it will have been even closer to 11 full months between Price’s most recent regular season game for the Canadiens — Nov. 25, 2015 — and his first start of the new campaign. He missed almost the entire 2015-16 season due to an MCL sprain.
Thankfully for the Canadiens, Montoya has been superb despite only holding a 1-0-1 record in Price’s stead.
In his season and team debut for the Canadiens, Montoya turned away 30 of 31 shots and followed that up with 35 saves on 38 shots in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Senators. His 1.92 goals-against average and .924 save percentage through two games shows exactly why Montreal went out and got Montoya to serve as Price’s backup.
The Canadiens’ second home game of the season comes Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes, and if Price continues to improve leading up to the late-week tilt, there’s a chance it will be his first start of the year. Otherwise, Price could be left making his season debut against the rival Boston Bruins on Saturday.
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