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Canadiens' Price to miss rest of conference final

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens were dealt a severe blow in their attempt to reach their first Stanley Cup Final in 21 years.

Canadiens goalie Carey Price will miss the remainder of the Eastern Conference Final with an undisclosed injury, coach Michel Therrien said after the morning skate Monday.

"We need to rally around Carey," Therrien said. "We need to give him a chance to keep playing this season."

Peter Budaj was the first goalie off the ice at the Canadiens' morning skate but Therrien refused to confirm that he will start Game 2 at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 1-0.

Dustin Tokarski was the other goalie on the ice and could get his first career start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I've already taken my decision. I know where I'm going," Therrien said. "You'll see [Monday]."

Price was injured at 3:15 of the second period of Game 1 when Rangers forward Chris Kreider lost his footing and crashed feet-first into Price.

Price was slow to get up and was clutching at his right knee while wincing in pain, but after talking with the Canadiens trainer he remained in the game. However, he was replaced by Budaj at the start of the third period.

Therrien said he didn't believe Price aggravated the injury by finishing the second period.

Price has a 2.35 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in the playoffs.

Therrien said Sunday that Kreider did not make enough of an effort to get out of Price's way, and his take on the play became more severe Monday in light of the loss of his No. 1 goaltender.

"It's a reckless play. That's the truth," Therrien said. "And Kreider, this is not the first time he's going at goalies. So we end up losing our best player. But our group faced a lot of adversity through the course of the season and had the attitude to respond really well. This is what I'm expecting starting [Monday]."

Kreider spoke briefly with reporters at Bell Centre following the Rangers' morning skate Monday and maintained his position that he did nothing wrong.

Except for one thing.

"I look back on it and think I wish I would've put it in the net," Kreider said. "Obviously I was trying to score a goal. I put it wide. It was a bang-bang play."

Budaj has excelled in a backup role this season but struggled when he was thrust into the starting position while Price recovered from a lower-body injury he aggravated at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

In seven starts while Price was out, Budaj went 2-4-1 with a 3.51 GAA and .868 save percentage.

In addition, Budaj has allowed 10 goals on 39 shots for a .744 save percentage in three playoff games with the Canadiens, including one start. He allowed three goals on eight shots in his relief stint in Game 1.

Last season, Price was injured at the end of regulation in Game 4 of the Canadiens' first-round series against the Ottawa Senators, forcing Budaj to enter the game at the start of overtime with Montreal down 2-1 in the series. Budaj allowed the second shot he faced to get past him, and then allowed six goals on 29 shots in a 6-1 loss in Game 5, ending the Canadiens' postseason.

Tokarski has 20 games of American Hockey League playoff experience with the Norfolk Admirals, posting a 1.67 GAA and .937 save percentage while winning the Calder Cup in 2012. He also was the MVP of the 2008 Memorial Cup with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League and was the starting goaltender for Canada, which won the gold medal at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship, going 4-0-0.

"I know our team's got a lot of character," Therrien said. "That's the No. 1 reason that we're here."

When asked Sunday how important Price was to his team, Budaj did not hold back.

"He's huge," Budaj said. "He's our best player. He works hard, he's a competitor. He's a leader.

"I'm sure we wouldn't be here without him."

Now the Canadiens have to try to make the Stanley Cup Final without him.

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