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Milestone man

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

NEWARK – Carey Price has come a long way since making his NHL debut in 2007.

Handed the keys to the most storied franchise in hockey as a 20-year-old, Price has experienced everything that comes with being the starter in a market where few things fly under the radar. Learning and growing from both the good and the bad during his first eight years in the league, the 27-year-old netminder already has an Olympic gold medal and three NHL All-Star appearances on his impressive hockey CV, and he continues cementing his spot among the franchise’s all-time greats with each milestone he checks off along the way.

About to suit up for career game No. 400 on Friday night, Price recently surpassed Ken Dryden (397) on the club’s all-time games played list, now sitting behind only Jacques Plante (556) and Patrick Roy (551) in the team’s history books in that category.

“It’s gone by quickly and I know they only go by faster every year. You have to really appreciate every game and every season you play and enjoy the moment,” said Price, who will become the 12th netminder in NHL history to play 400 games by the age of 27. “I’ve had the privilege of playing on some very good hockey teams and I’ve played with several very good hockey players who have helped me throughout those 400 games and that number of wins.”

Having grown up alongside Price within the organization, Max Pacioretty has seen the young netminder’s evolution first hand over their seven seasons together. Having transitioned into married family men, South Shore home owners and leaders in the Canadiens’ dressing room, Pacioretty is particularly impressed by how the former fifth-overall pick has complemented his raw talent with veteran experience.

“He’s still Carey, but he’s a much different person on and off the ice. I think he’s always had that calmness, but now it’s at a whole new level where he just doesn’t let anything faze him,” explained the 26-year-old assistant captain. “His personality is always the same and I think when you’re talking about a goaltender and a leader, that’s the number one quality you’re looking for. I think that’s why he’s so effective and why he’s such a good leader on this team.”

The Canadiens’ sniper has also had an opportunity to face off against the star netminder as an opponent on the international stage and he admits he much prefers having Price behind him instead of squaring up to his shots at the other end of the ice.

“At the Olympics, the coaches asked me to do a scouting report on him before we played Canada and it was tough to come up with much. I said he’s a good guy and he works hard,” admitted Pacioretty with a laugh, having suited up for Team USA in Sochi last February. “In my eyes, he’s always been one of the best goalies in the league and in the world. I think this year and last year, it seems like at the right times when the team needs to be picked up or needs a bit of a boost, he gives us that big save at the right time. That’s one of his best qualities as a goaltender.”

Riding a four-game win streak into the Prudential Center on Friday, Michel Therrien is hoping his netminder’s 400th game will lead to another of Price’s career milestones: his 200th NHL win.

“He’s still considered a young goaltender, but he’s already at the top of his game in his position,” said the Habs bench boss. “He’s really grown up over the last two seasons. With him, you see a leader, and a mature and controlled player. He’s always in position. You don’t really see spectacular saves from him, because he’s where he’s supposed to be. He makes it look easy because he’s so good at reading the play. He’s receptive and he always wants to get better. That’s what impresses me the most about a guy like Carey Price.”

Improving on his consistently solid numbers this season with a.928 save percentage and 2.19 goals-against average through 30 starts, Price has been playing some of the best hockey of his career in 2014-15. Monopolizing the Molson Cup Trophy for the most first-star selections in both October and November, the veteran netminder could also find himself suiting up for a fourth NHL All-Star Game in late January. While he stressed that No. 400 will just be another game for him, he admits it’s a little hard to believe he’s already seen 399 come and go.

“It doesn’t seem very long ago that I was a 20-year-old in some of these young guys’ shoes in this locker room today. It goes by pretty quick,” mentioned Price. “It’s been a pretty fun ride. I’ve played with a lot of really good guys, I’ve played on a few pretty good teams and I’ve really enjoyed my time as a Hab. Hopefully I can play a few hundred more.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

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