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Round 1

Canadiens not concerned about Rangers' Chris Kreider

Carey Price, teammates aren't reflecting on collision with New York forward that knocked goalie out of 2014 Eastern Conference Final

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- As soon as the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers became the first teams to be locked into a first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the whole city of Montreal started talking about it.

The wounds remain fresh in the minds of Canadiens fans, even though three years have passed, and the name on everyone's lips around town was Chris Kreider.

The Rangers forward remains public enemy No. 1 in the minds of many in Montreal because of what happened in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final when Kreider slipped and fell into Canadiens goalie Carey Price in Game 1, knocking him out of the series.

The Rangers won the series in six games, and a villain was born in Montreal.

But if the residents of the city have Kreider on their minds, the Canadiens most definitely don't.

Especially Price.

"No," Price said Monday. "Not even a little bit."

To be fair, Price wasn't really in the mood to chat about anything, using 77 words to answer 13 questions in a brief, yet light, session with reporters.

Video: TBL@MTL: Price robs Kucherov with a quick glove

His focus was clearly elsewhere, and he wasn't the only one in the Canadiens dressing room who said they weren't worried about what happened in 2014.

"It's funny, I've been asked about the rivalry like 10 times and that's not even an incident that crossed my mind," captain Max Pacioretty said. "It just shows that's something the outside world talks about that we don't really talk about in here.

"We're talking about a rivalry, so I don't think a guy slipping and falling and injuring a goalie is really a part of that."

The subdued sense of panic in Montreal over what happened three years ago speaks to just how important Price is to the Canadiens' chances for success in the series, and also to the type of reception Kreider can expect in Game 1 at Bell Centre on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Price was 37-20-5, including 3-0-0 against the Rangers, with a .923 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average this season, making him the Canadiens' biggest strength.

"He's a goalie that can give us a chance to win every night," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "When you have a goalie like that, there's no doubt there is a feeling of confidence around your team. But you have to know how to take advantage of it.

"If we don't score at the other end of the ice, even if he stops almost everything, it won't mean anything. So if we're going to win we'll win as a team, but we like to have a goalie like Carey Price. It's a great asset for a team to have, even more in the playoffs. But we have to do the job in front of him."

That might include protecting him.

Kreider was asked at the Rangers practice facility on Monday about the incident and how he has had fewer instances of running into goalies, something he was becoming known for around the NHL.

Video: PHI@NYR: Kreider's clever redirect beats Stolarz

Much like Price, Kreider used some humor to address the situation.

"We've got a really good skating coach here, so working on my edges, really learning how to stop," Kreider said. "No, my game doesn't change, hasn't changed. For me to be effective, I need to go and get to the crease. That's where I'm going to score goals. I don't have a big one-timer, I'm not scoring from distance. So I need to be a big body, get to the top of the paint and try to bang stuff home."

The Canadiens are aware of that, not because of the collision with Price three years ago, but because Kreider led the Rangers this season with 28 goals and has size and speed that makes him a dangerous offensive weapon.

One player who may see a lot of Kreider in the series is defenseman Shea Weber, known for his ability to prevent players from getting to the front of his net. But he says protecting Price from Kreider is not necessarily at the front of his mind.

"I don't think there's any focus on that at all," Weber said. "I think our focus is obviously to play the best we can as a team. But we're going to have to shut down individuals and he's obviously a guy that's very fast and uses his speed to his advantage. He's one of those guys we'll have to be aware of, but I don't think there's any thought about what you just specified there."

So even though Kreider's name can be heard on every second street corner in Montreal, the Canadiens are not getting hung up on it or even acknowledging it.

All except one person, someone who was not with the Canadiens in 2014 and only joined the organization on Feb. 14.

"We don't want to live in the past," Julien said, "but we realize that happened and it's there and we'll take the necessary precautions."

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