KELOWNA, British Columbia -- Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price said he is fully recovered from the knee injury that ended his 2015-16 season after 12 games.
"I feel like my old self on the ice," Price told NHL.com after two 90-minute ice sessions at a fundraiser for the Eli Wilson Goaltending Sponsorship Fund on Saturday.
Price hasn't played since spraining the MCL ligament in his right knee during a game against the New York Rangers on Nov. 25, but no lingering effects of the injury could be detected when he moved smoothly around the ice Saturday.
Price spent the day with 16 goalies, each of whom had bid for or won the right to train with the 2014-15 winner of the Hart and Vezina trophies. The goalies came from across North America, including California and Prince Edward Island.
Price led the group through a dynamic warmup, then strapped on his new red and white CCM equipment, which he will wear for Team Canada next month at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. He guided the goalies through a series of on-ice drills, pushing, stopping and sliding around his crease, popping in and out of his posts, fully extending without hesitation.
Price said as good as he looks and feels on the ice, the injury remains in the back of his mind.
"It is a little bit just because it's been so long," Price said. "It's been sitting in my back pocket forever so I am just looking forward to getting past it. I don't want to say I feel anxious, but I just want to get started. I feel like the buildup has been six months of waiting for that first game and I still haven't gotten there. I've been working toward a goal I haven't gotten to yet."
Price's first game will come earlier than normal this season; he's one of three goalies on Team Canada's roster. Price, who was 5-0-0 with two shutouts and a .972 save percentage when he helped Canada to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, will compete with 2016 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals) and Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks) for the starting job, but for now he is happy to have the tournament as an early finish line.
"It was kind of nice just because summer was really long not making the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] last year so we were sitting around for quite a while, so being able to get right back into it a little earlier is going to be a lot of fun," Price said. "It was obviously a long rehab -- six months long -- so I am looking forward to getting the first few games in, start getting into a rhythm again, and getting back into my routine of just playing games and just looking forward to getting past it."
Still, Price admits, at age 29, he needs to decrease his workload once the regular season begins. He played in 66 games in 2014-15 and has played in at least 65 games in three of the past four full NHL seasons, including a career-high 72 in 2010-11.
"As you get older -- I'm not old, but 29 is relative in goalie years -- you like to see your number of games taper down a little bit so you are fresher for playoffs," Price said. "By the time playoffs start you want to be as fresh as possible and I think even five fewer games would help. As you get older too, your amount of time spent in practice should taper off as well a little bit."
To make that happen, Montreal signed Al Montoya as an unrestricted free agent on July 1 to compete with Mike Condon for the backup job, and Canadiens goalie coach Stephane Waite has talked about limiting Price to around 60 games.
Price, along with the rest of Team Canada, will report to training camp in Ottawa on Sept. 4 and begin practice Sept. 5. Team Canada has three exhibition games before the two-week tournament opens Sept. 17 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Price made few alterations to his training schedule because of the World Cup, but he did start skating a week earlier than usual to get ready.
"I started skating sooner, more intensely," he said. "One thing over the summer that was a little more difficult was getting back into the gym, just because I rehabbed so long during the season, so all I did was work out, sometimes twice a day, all season. So trying to get back into the swing of things in the gym was tough, but once you start building your routine up it wasn't too bad."
There was another life change that impacted Price's offseason schedule: the birth of his daughter, Liv Anniston Price, on May 6.
"It's been a little bit different," Price said. "As a first-time parent, you are obviously a little bit tired from not sleeping as well as you are used to and you feel like your training is a little bit less intense throughout the early part of the summer. Fortunately for us, though, Liv was born really early. So over the last couple of months I felt like I was able to catch up."
Despite the new responsibilities at home and a shorter offseason, Price made time for the all-day fundraiser Saturday. Price, from the remote town of Anahim Lake in northern British Columbia, has raised more than $170,000 in two years and knows what it means to the more than 200 kids who have received equipment, registration fees and training through the Eli Wilson Goaltending Sponsorship Fund.
"It's awesome. Made a lot of kids happy today," Price said, "And to help get equipment for kids that don't have it available to them means a lot to me because I have seen a lot of kids with a lot of potential but just didn't have the opportunity, and this can help them."
Looking lean after a summer that included regular yoga practice, Price said he is down to 218 pounds after carrying 226 pounds into this same event last summer.
"I typically fluctuate between 220-to-225, but I feel comfortable around 218," said Price, noting he ended his Calder Cup-winning rookie season in 2006-07 at around 260 pounds. "As my career progresses, as I get older, I'd like to start lightening up a little, maybe toward 215 or 212. It's a lot of up and down in a season, so packing around an extra five pounds makes a difference."
Given his importance to the Canadiens, some might argue Price carries a lot more weight on his shoulders during the season. For now, fans in Montreal will be happy to see Price moving his own weight so effortlessly, powerfully and smoothly around his crease again.