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Price back with Canadiens, 'many steps' needed before playing, coach says

Goalie had knee examined Sunday, entered NHL/NHLPA player assistance program Oct. 7 @NHLdotcom

Carey Price has returned to the Montreal Canadiens, but "many steps" need to be taken before the goalie can resume playing, coach Dominique Ducharme said Monday. 

"I haven't met him yet. I need to see him. I'll see him tomorrow," Ducharme said. "He wants to come back and play, but there's other things to manage. We talked about the injury that he was coming back from, getting back in shape, and playing shape too. There's many steps to be taken, but he wants to play. He wants to be part of our group. He wants to help out."

Price had been voluntarily taking part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program since Oct. 7. He met with the Canadiens training staff Sunday so they could examine his surgically repaired knee and will see his teammates Tuesday for the first time since entering the program.

"Like we talked about when he first left our group, we were happy for him that he was going to be able to get the help he needed," forward Brendan Gallagher said. "Now that he's back, we're doing what we can do to help him. Like anyone, he's going to be excited to get back to the rink. We're looking forward to it as a group."

Price was 13-9 with a 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, helping the Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since winning the Cup in 1993. They lost the best-of-7 series in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Price did not take part in training camp after having arthroscopic surgery in New York on July 22 to repair a torn meniscus, with the Canadiens saying at the time his full recovery would take 10-12 weeks. He resumed skating Sept. 16 and told he was in the Canadiens gym and medical clinic almost every day getting back into shape before entering the program.

"When it happened, it's not about the hockey player it's about the human being," Ducharme said. "To see that he's coming back is a positive sign because he's doing better. That's the most important thing. Our guys care about each other and to see a guy like him doing better, that's positive."

Montreal, which is 3-10-0, including a season-opening five-game losing streak, left Price exposed in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft one day before his surgery, but he was not selected by the Seattle Kraken.

Jake Allen has started 11 games in Price's absence. He's 3-8-0 with a 2.94 GAA, .900 save percentage and two shutouts.

Selected by the Canadiens with the No. 5 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, Price is 360-257-79 with a 2.50 GAA, .917 save percentage and 49 shutouts in 707 regular-season NHL games (695 starts). He has the most wins by a goalie in Montreal history. He won the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL, the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL and the Ted Lindsay Award given annually to the most outstanding player as voted by members of the NHL Players' Association in 2014-15.

Price led the NHL that season with 44 wins, a 1.96 GAA and .933 save percentage, each an NHL career best in a full season. He has five seasons remaining on an eight-year contract he signed with the Canadiens on July 2, 2017.

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