Montreal Canadiens backup netminder Mike Condon has done tremendous work as Carey Price’s injury replacement, but you can’t fault Canadiens fans for wondering when their all-star goaltender is going to be back between the pipes.
Wednesday, for the first time since his injury, Price took part in full practice, but there’s still no timeline on when the 28-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner can return to full duty. Price told TSN’s John Lu that the lower-body injury occurred in the contest against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 29, but would not “reveal when it happened or whether it's a new or old issue.” Price was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 1.
In speaking with NHL.com’s Arpon Basu, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said they’re going to take a patient approach with getting Price back into action.
"As I said when he was first injured, when he feels ready, not only physically but in terms of being able to perform, he'll let us know," Therrien told Basu. "Right now it's a bit too early to say.”
Little more than a week ago, Price got a second opinion on his injury in New York. Therrien told media at the time that Price received the same diagnosis in New York and would be until at least Nov. 16 — a date that has since passed without Price returning. However, that’s an easier pill to swallow for Price and the Canadiens considering the performance of Condon.
"[Condon] really allowed me to take my time and get well," Price told Basu. "He played very valiantly over the last two weeks. He played very well, and that was a very good sign. I've been saying it all along, this team isn't just about me.”
Since Price went down with injury, Condon has gone 5-1-2 with a .909 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against average. Condon has started each of the Canadiens’ games since Price’s injury and, thankfully for Montreal, they haven’t had one back-to-back over that span. That’s about to change, however, as the Habs have tilts Thursday against Arizona and a date with the Islanders in Brooklyn Friday. If Price isn’t back by Friday, the Canadiens will likely turn to backup Dustin Tokarski for the first time this season.
That said, Condon has the Habs sitting pretty in the Atlantic Division with a nine-point lead on the second place Ottawa Senators and Tokarski is a capable netminder. It doesn’t hurt that the team in front of the goaltender has been tremendous, as well.
Since Price has hit the shelf, the Canadiens have scored 28 goals, tied for the third-most in the league since Oct. 30. Only 15 of those goals have come at 5-on-5, where the Canadiens have scored two more goals than they’ve allowed, but Montreal has been buoyed by a power play that ranks fourth in the league and is operating at a 23.9 percent clip. That’s not to mention the club’s penalty kill is tied for third in the league at 86.4 percent.
“We knew we were going to have to play a little bit better in his absence,” Canadiens captain Max Paciorettytold Basu. “We got some great goaltending from [Condon] and hopefully we can keep going that way and playing the right way. But it was definitely motivation, especially for me personally. I felt it.”
Regardless of where the Canadiens sit in the standings, though, the boost Price gives the team is near immeasurable. Early this season he looked primed to best his incredible nine shutouts, .933 SP and 1.96 GAA from 2014-15. Through nine games in 2015-16, Price had notched two shutouts and had a 2.01 GAA with .936 SP.