BROSSARD - Following a triumphant World Cup of Hockey run, Carey Price and Shea Weber are set to make their preseason debuts on Thursday night.
In Price's case, it will mark his return between the pipes in a Canadiens uniform for the first time since going down with a season-ending knee injury last November.
Now fully healthy, the 29-year-old netminder is coming off another standout performance for Team Canada, having posted a perfect 5-0-0 record, a 1.40 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage in tournament play to help lead Mike Babcock's contingent to the World Cup of Hockey title.
"It's good to get back with the boys and kind of get back into a routine, start having fun and get prepared for the season," said Price, who will get the call in goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Canadiens' preseason finale at the Bell Centre. "We got a few days off, so we had some time to unwind a little bit and get settled back in our place in Montreal. It's been a long time [since I've played at the Bell Centre]. I'm looking forward to getting in front of the crowd and getting back into it."
Video: Carey Price on his return
That won't take Price long at all, though, given that he's already played over a handful of pressure-packed games for his country on home soil in recent weeks. The four-time NHL All-Star is just hoping to keep things going in the right direction with the start of the regular season just over a week away.
"It was definitely intense, going right into the boiling pot. I thought it was a good experience. It didn't give me a whole lot of time to think about things. You just get in there and do it. It was a good start," said Price, reflecting upon another memorable experience in his remarkable international career. "Like the Olympics, you learn a lot about the way captains of other championship teams prepare and how they carry themselves. Hopefully, I can rub some of that off [on this group in Montreal]."
Like Canadiens fans the world over, head coach Michel Therrien has been eagerly anticipating the return of the former Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner, one of his most trusted leaders both on and off the ice.
"It's nice to see Pricer back. We haven't seen him in uniform in a long time. The fact that he played so well in the World Cup was great for him. He's healthy. He looks good. He looks fresh. He's an important player to our team, as we all know," shared Therrien, who believes Price's return to active duty will undoubtedly energize his entire group. "It will be exciting - not only for him, but for his teammates as well - to see him with them out there."
Therrien's troops will also get a boost from seeing a veteran of Weber's calibre patrolling the blue line against Toronto, too. Price insists the Canadiens' No. 6 brings a host of intangibles to the table that will quickly have an important impact on the group as a whole.
"I thought it showed at the World Cup. He's obviously a big presence on the ice, but he's a big presence in the room, too. He does everything right," praised Price, who trains with Weber in Kelowna, BC during the offseason. "He's a true professional in that sense. He's a man of few words, but his words are definitely strong ones."
Weber will paired with Nathan Beaulieu in his first-ever appearance in Canadiens colors. Even if the 31-year-old defenseman hasn't spent much time skating with his younger counterpart just yet, he already likes what he sees in his game.
"It was a good first day. Obviously, we're going to have to build as we go here. He's a great young defenseman with a lot of talent. I look forward to playing with him and the other guys," mentioned Weber, before expanding upon some of Beaulieu's top attributes. "He skates really well. You can see the way he sees the ice and moves the puck. The more I play with him, the more I'm going to see what he can do and get more accustomed to his style."
Video: Shea Weber on his Canadiens debut
While the Canadiens' bench boss admits that having Weber in the lineup a few games ago would have been ideal to help him get acclimated to his new surroundings, things simply didn't work out that way because of the World Cup of Hockey schedule. With 11 years of NHL experience and 763 career games on his resume, though, he'll likely adjust in no time at all. Familiarity with the likes of Price, former Nashville Predators teammate Alexander Radulov, and fellow BC native Brendan Gallagher will also go a long way towards easing that transition along in short order.
"He has to learn about some of his new teammates and their tendencies. Do I wish he was going to be able to play more preseason games with us? Yes, but there's nothing we can do about that," concluded Therrien, knowing full-well that Weber, like Price, have had October 6th circled on their respective calendars since returning from their championship experience down Highway 401. "I'm pretty sure he's excited to play [on Thursday night]."