Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who has missed the past 10 games with a lower-body injury, will start against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, MSG-B, NHL.TV).
Price, 30, who hasn't played since Nov. 2, said the injury took longer to recover from than he had hoped.
"Maybe a week," he said after practice Friday. "I didn't expect it to be quite this long. I had to make sure because I didn't want to get hurt and be out for a longer period.
"I had a pretty good idea I was going to feel good today; it was just making sure that going through a full practice, I'd feel good and feel like my game is where it should be at to be in there. The last couple of skates weren't exactly full practices for me. Pregame skates, and I didn't want to take the other guys shots before the game, so being able to take a full practice today was a big difference."
Price is 3-7-1 with a 3.77 goals-against average and an .877 save percentage this season. The Canadiens (8-12-3) have lost five straight and were 4-4-2 in his absence. Entering play Friday, they were in sixth place in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the third place Detroit Red Wings.
"It's a big cluster in the middle (of the standings)," Price said. "Anything can happen. There is a lot of hockey left to be played. Just have to take it step by step. You want to be able to come back and make a difference. The season is not over yet."
Price played Nov. 2 game at the Minnesota Wild despite sustaining the injury late in warmups before the 6-3 loss.
"I was good enough to go. It probably wasn't the greatest idea," he said. "... We went over quite a bit of tape to try and prepare yourself mentally to come back. A lot of it was rehab exercises and just getting your body prepared for the battle again."
The injury was unrelated to a knee injury Price sustained on Nov. 25, 2015, which caused him to miss the remainder of the 2015-16 season.
"It's just about getting timing back and getting into a groove again," Price said. "Definitely taking a step back in watching again, it helps sometimes, but definitely was eager to get back this whole time. "
Charlie Lindgren made eight straight starts for Montreal before Antti Niemi started a 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. Lindgren was returned to Laval of the American Hockey League on Friday. Backup Al Montoya has been out since Nov. 4 because of a concussion.
"It's pretty obvious that with the uncertainty around Montoya's situation, we could lose Niemi if we put him on waivers," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "By keeping him here, we can send Charlie back to Laval, which is 20 minutes from here and have him keep playing, We can recall him anytime.
"We want to manage our goalie situation well so that we don't get caught off guard if we lose Niemi and another goalie gets hurt. That would bring us back to the situation we were in not too long ago."