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Soldiering on

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Michel Therrien’s troops will play on without Carey Price for at least the next six weeks.

On Monday, the Canadiens made the news official as Price’s teammates hit the ice for practice at the Bell Sports Complex. The 28-year-old Anahim Lake, BC native, who suffered a lower-body injury in a tilt against the New York Rangers on November 25, met with team doctors over the weekend to confirm the timeline which put him out of commission until mid-January at the earliest. Fortunately, Price will not require surgery to help in his recovery.

It certainly wasn’t the news anyone inside the Canadiens’ locker room was hoping for as the reigning Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner was sidelined for a significant period for the second time so far this season. Price had just returned to active duty on November 20 – and secured three straight victories – after missing three weeks of activity with another lower-body injury.

With the four-time All-Star on the shelf for the foreseeable future – along with young gun Brendan Gallagher, too – the Canadiens are well aware of the challenge that now lies ahead for them going forward. Still, they remain poised and confident. After all, they sit atop the league’s general standings with 39 points through 25 games, one point clear of the Dallas Stars.

“We know what this team is made of. We know that Carey’s our best player, but we also know that we have a great team. We’ve got to prove it,” offered captain Max Pacioretty, who was clearly disappointed to learn about Price’s extended absence on Monday. When his timeline wasn’t as long, we saw he was coming back in a short amount of time and now it’s six weeks. That’s a big chunk of time. Let’s see what we’re made of. It’s a good test for us, and it starts [on Tuesday against Columbus].”

The starting job now belongs to Mike Condon, who has come up big time and again for the CH between the pipes during the 2015-16 campaign. Through 13 starts, the 25-year-old Holliston, MA native boasts a record of 8-2-3, a 2.19 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. Given the success he’s enjoyed in his first foray in the NHL ranks, the Princeton University grad isn’t about to change his mindset knowing the net will be his on most nights.

“It’s the same since I got here back on September 1. It’s just one day at a time, trying to get through the day. I’m just concentrating on putting in the work. That’s the only way that you can do it,” mentioned Condon, who will make his first career start against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. “I would just say that I’m a lot more comfortable. I’ve made 14 appearances so far. Every time you're out there, it gets a little more familiar and a little bit easier. It’s just about maturing with the game as you play.”

General manager Marc Bergevin, who first signed Condon as a free agent in May 2013 before giving him a two-year contract extension last February, has complete faith in No. 39’s capacity to keep on delivering the goods while Price heals up.

“Mike has the ability to be a good No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. He’s always in good position to face shots. There are some goals that he’d absolutely like back, but that happens to all goaltenders. Look at that game against New York and Henrik Lundqvist. He’s probably one of the best goaltenders in the league right now,” praised Bergevin, who addressed the media on Monday regarding Price’s health status. “For now, though, Condon has really stepped up. You always say that if your backup goaltender plays .500 hockey, you’re happy. He’s 8-2-3. We have great confidence in him.”

And, they most definitely believe in themselves every single night no matter who is in uniform. That’s definitely been on display all season long.

“We feel like we have the depth this year that we’ve never really had in the past, and I think we’ve shown that. A guy goes down, and someone has stepped in and had that next-man-up attitude and made a difference. It’s no different now,” concluded Pacioretty. “It’s obviously magnified more when you have some of your top players sidelined and for a longer amount of time, but we’ve got to take the same approach we always do – one day at a time and worry about the process. Hopefully, everyone can play their best.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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