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Safety first

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – The Canadiens weren’t about to take any chances with Carey Price or P.K. Subban with just two games remaining in the regular season.

On Wednesday morning, the team announced that both players wouldn’t see game action for the rest of the year as they continue to recover from their respective injuries. In addition, Mark Barberio, Victor Bartley and Lucas Lessio were also ruled out for the final two games of the season.

After months of speculation, it was revealed that Price had sustained an MCL sprain to his right knee back in late November in a game against the New York Rangers. Subban, meanwhile, has missed the last 12 games after suffering a neck injury on March 10 against the Buffalo Sabres.

Both players met with members of the media on Wednesday to discuss their health status and shed some light on the progress they’ve made since being forced to watch from the sidelines.

“[The decision] was made last night. During this whole process, it was my goal to get back and play game minutes. I just kind of ran out of time. Last night, we made the decision that if it wasn’t going to be possible to go back in there being 100 percent, then there was no point in risking it,” offered Price, who played just 12 games during the 2015-16 campaign, posting a 10-2-0 record, a 2.34 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage before being placed on injured reserve.

When the injury occurred, it was believed that Price would miss a minimum of six weeks. Unfortunately, the nature of the injury mandated a lot more recovery time, which wasn’t easy for the Canadiens’ No. 31 to swallow. Eager to return and help his teammates through their struggles, Price admits it’s been a trying few months taking in games from afar.

“I came in and did my work every day and did everything I could to get back. I just fell short of getting back by a couple of weeks. It was a frustrating process. It was definitely the most challenging year of my career,” admitted Price, who still fully expects to be ready for training camp and the World Cup of Hockey come September. “Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. Collectively, as a group, we’re obviously disappointed in the results.”

Head coach Michel Therrien felt especially bad for Price given the time and effort he’s put in to try to get back between the pipes before the season was officially done.

“Right up until the last minute, we hoped that he’d be able to play a game. But, in the end, he simply wasn’t going to be ready in time to do it. That was really frustrating for everyone,” said Therrien, who confirmed that newcomer Charlie Lindgren would make his NHL debut on Thursday night in Carolina, while Mike Condon would close out the year on Saturday night against Tampa Bay.

When he hasn’t been rehabbing at the Bell Sports Complex, Price has been spending plenty of quality time with his wife, Angela, who is due with the couple’s first child in just two-and-a-half weeks. That’s really been the bright spot for the nine-year NHL veteran throughout his recovery.

“One thing I was able to be blessed with was being able to spend time with my wife during our first pregnancy. I think that was probably the biggest thing that helped along the way. We’re kind of at the end, at the boiling point right now,” shared Price. “This is going to be a special moment in our life. I’d like to be able to spend it at home and be with my wife.”

Like Price, Subban was equally disappointed with the way things played out with his recovery efforts, which simply weren’t completed in time to return to active duty.

“I’m disappointed, but I also have to be thankful that I’ve gone through six seasons in the NHL without missing a game until this year. I can’t be too negative. The positive thing is that it’s not a career-threatening injury, it’s just something that needs to take time,” said Subban, who surpassed the 50-point mark for the third consecutive year in 2015-16, picking up 51 points in 68 games.

“I wanted to play the next game on the Saturday after being taken out on a stretcher. That’s the mentality [I have]. I’ve played pretty much my whole career in games where I was injured. You still find a way to play, but in this case, when it’s your neck, it’s a little bit different,” added Subban, who confirmed that his symptoms related to the injury haven’t subsided just yet.

In short, the Canadiens were never going to put either player in a position where they could hurt themselves even further by coming back too early. It wasn’t worth the risk.

“The safety and security of our players has always been very important,” concluded Therrien. “When a player doesn’t feel ready to come back, the medical team simply won’t give them the green light.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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