The Canadiens’ chances at a post-season appearance may be shot, but Montreal may be getting some positive news down the home stretch.
Goaltender Carey Price, 28, has been skating in full equipment for nearly a week and could be inching closer to a return after 14 weeks on the shelf. At this point, it’s incredibly unlikely even Price’s return could spark the Canadiens enough to get them into the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he’s not aiming to get back to action. And when it comes to a return, Price said he’s “pretty confident” he’ll be back.
“It’s never been the goal for me to not play,” Price said Wednesday. “Given the position that we’re in, it doesn’t change anything. I love playing hockey and I want to get out there as quick as possible. I want to be out there playing the game I love. It’s not a matter of protecting me. I’m going to play regardless. I’d rather do it sooner than later.”
Price said he’s continuing the healing process and working towards getting back before the end of the season, adding he feels like he has “turned the corner and started heading in the right direction” in his recovery. He also said they’ve begun to work him harder in practice. Recent workouts have included facing some shots, something Price hadn’t done in more than three months.
“We’ve been staying within my limits,” Price said. “We haven’t been really pushing it on the ice. I’ve been doing all my progression in the gym, in a very controlled scenario. It’s been a confidence booster.”
The injury that has kept Price on the shelf was the second lower-body injury he suffered this season. Upon him falling injured Nov. 25 against the New York Rangers, speculation was his second injury was the result of him rushing back to play and re-aggravating the original ailment.
“I came back quickly but I don’t think me getting injured the second time necessarily has anything to do with my first injury,” Price said. “If you look at the tape, that could have happened to me if I was 100 percent healthy. Whether they’re connected, I don’t know.”
Price added that surgery was never an option, but the injury was one that was especially difficult on goaltenders. Time, Price said, is the only thing that was going to heal his lower-body injury.
Since Price’s injury, the Canadiens are the worst team in the league with a 13-24-4 record since Nov. 26, and Montreal has allowed the fourth-most goals against over that time. Price said teammate Mike Condon has done a good job and has worked hard, but it’s a tough situation for a rookie goaltender to be in. As for the team being without him, though, Price said he understands it has played a part in the team’s struggles.
“I’d like to think that I’m a big part of the team’s success over the past couple of seasons,” he said. “I feel like my presence is best felt on the ice competing. I feel like the guys have a lot of confidence when I’m back there with them. It’s a piece of the puzzle.”