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Canadiens' Price has follow-up visit; update Tuesday

by Arpon Basu /

BROSSARD, Quebec -- It doesn't appear Carey Price will be back in the Montreal Canadiens net any time soon.

Nor does it appear to be a very big deal in Montreal.

Price left town Monday for a follow-up medical visit on his lower-body injury and was expected to be back in Montreal later the same day.

The Canadiens would not say where Price went or who he was going to see, but he is unlikely to be ready in time for Montreal's next game Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Penguins considering he has not skated with the team since the injury was announced Nov. 1. Price's status will be updated by coach Michel Therrien on Tuesday prior to the Canadiens' departure for Pittsburgh.

Normally, news like this would have been met with screams of panic in Montreal, but the Canadiens are sitting atop the NHL standings with a 13-2-1 record and are 3-0-1 in Price's absence thanks largely to the work of his backup, Mike Condon, who was named the NHL's third star of the week Monday.

"I'm very fortunate for it, I'm very humbled for it," Condon said Monday. "But I know personal achievements don't really mean that much."

Condon has started all four of the games Price has missed and posted a 1.50 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. Overall this season Condon is 6-0-1 with a League-leading 1.57 GAA and a .940 save percentage.

"He's worked extremely hard and everything that's coming to him, he deserves," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "You see him out there, he's working hard. He was working hard as well today, he's always like that. He's been like that since training camp.

"Listen, he's been our best player for a while here."

That title is normally reserved for Price, and it's difficult to imagine the Canadiens, or their fans, would have coped nearly as well with an absence like this last season.

The Canadiens announced on Nov. 1 that Price would be out at least a week with a lower-body injury. Goaltender Dustin Tokarski was recalled on an emergency basis from St. John's of the American Hockey League.

Last season, Tokarski was Price's backup and posted a 6-6-4 record with a 2.75 GAA and .910 save percentage, allowing three or more goals in seven of his final nine starts.

This season Condon has made Price's absence more palatable, but it's not just his play that has made the difference.

The Canadiens as a team are making life much more difficult for their opponents and limiting high-quality scoring chances, making their reliance on Price, or whoever is in net, far less than it was last season.

"As a team we understand that it's not just about our goaltender, it's about the way we play," Subban said. "We want to play the right way and if we do that then we shouldn't ask a lot of our goaltenders. If our goaltender has to make 35, 40, 50 saves a night, then we're asking too much of him. I don't care how good the goaltender is.

"Our job as a team is to make sure we keep the puck and we play in their end. We don't want to play in our end. But if we are in our zone we want to play the right way and make sure that we're structurally sound and we're not giving up key scoring opportunities."

In Condon's seven starts he has faced an average of 26.3 shots against per game and the Canadiens have scored 30 goals, an average of 4.3 per game. Price has rarely benefited from support like that in the past, and it bodes well for the Canadiens if it continues when he returns.

"I think we've had a good team for a pretty long time here, and Price is a big part of that, but we have some pretty good players here as well," Subban said. "Listen, when Carey comes back obviously he's a big part of our team moving forward, just like he's always been. But at the same token this is the Montreal Canadiens, so this organization is built on teams, not on players. So we have a good team, and that's a big basis of our success right now."

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