BROSSARD – Things are looking up for Carey Price in his bid to return to active duty.
On Wednesday, the Canadiens’ starter practiced with the rest of his teammates for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury nearly three weeks ago in Edmonton. Price, who had been skating on his own for the past four days at the Bell Sports Complex, was pleased to be taking part in regular drills again as he continues his rehab work in hopes of being back between the pipes in short order.
“It felt really good to be back on the ice with the guys. Whenever you’re away from your teammates, you kind of feel secluded and not a part of it, no matter how much the guys try to cheer you up. I’m definitely glad to be participating in a team practice,” shared Price, who posted a 7-2-0 record, a 2.01 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in nine games before suffering the injury against the Oilers on October 29th. “At this point, I’m just trying to take it day by day. I don’t want to step in when I’m not ready and put myself in a bad position. I’m going to be participating in practices and I’m not going to come back until I’m 100 percent ready.”
The Canadiens wouldn’t have it any other way. Following practice, head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Price himself would be the one to decide when he gets back in the lineup. In the meantime, he’ll continue his on and off-ice workouts as planned.
“Carey’s progressing very well. He’s following the plan we’ve had in place for him. He’s feeling good and we’re happy about that,” shared Therrien, who will start Mike Condon for a ninth consecutive game on Thursday night against the Arizona Coyotes at the Bell Centre. “It’s still a little bit too early to talk about him coming back, though. I met with Carey before practice to see how he was feeling. When he’s ready to go – physically and he has his timing back – he’ll let us know. Right now, it’s still too early.”
That might be true, but it’s safe to say those charged with playing in front of Price were thrilled to see the reigning Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner doing his best to stop their shots on Wednesday.
“You get a boost when that guy is on the ice. He’s our best player. He’s our biggest leader in this locker room. When you see him getting close like that, everyone gets excited,” offered Dale Weise, who has eight goals and 11 points in 19 games during the 2015-16 campaign. “He can come off three months and make a lot of good goaltenders look average. He’s just so talented. To come out there, practice and not miss a beat, I didn’t see too many goals on him today.”
Captain Max Pacioretty was equally impressed by the way Price went about his business in his first formal practice in quite a while.
“It’s always great to see your best player out there with us. It’s always encouraging to get him back after some time like that,” mentioned Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with nine goals on the year. “You go down and shoot on that net and know you’re not going to score because it’s Carey down there. He was just Carey today. I’ve never seen him be any different.”
In Price’s absence, Condon has stepped up to the plate and delivered for the CH, posting a 4-1-2 record since it was announced that the Anahim Lake, BC native would be sidelined back on November 1st. There’s no denying just how good he’s been in relief of Price, giving Therrien’s troops a chance to win every single night.
“He’s done a great job. He’s kept us in every game. I think the greatest thing I’ve seen from him is his ability to bounce back, whether it’s after a loss or after a goal. He’s a strong-minded player, and it’s important in that position, especially in this market,” explained Pacioretty. “No matter the outcome of the game, he always came to the rink the next day and did the right thing. He’s definitely a true professional.”
Condon’s remarkable play hasn’t been lost on Price, either.
“He really allowed me to take my time and get well. He played very valiantly over the last couple of weeks and the team played very well,” offered Price, who has clearly been impressed by his club’s performance in recent weeks. “That was a very good sign. I’ve been saying it all along – this team isn’t all about me.”
That being said, his teammates are looking forward to welcoming him back soon.
“Obviously, we would like Carey Price back in the lineup any time we can get him. But, it’s a long season. If we want to go deep, it’s going to be an advantage for us with him getting some rest at this point,” concluded Weise. “Hopefully, we can get him back [shortly]. We don’t want to rush him, though.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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