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Price, Gallagher play in AHL before Game 1 with Canadiens

Goalie, forward expected for playoff opener against Maple Leafs after conditioning loan

by Sean Farrell / Independent Correspondent

Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher, each out since April, played a game in the American Hockey League on Monday before the Montreal Canadiens face the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Price and Gallagher played for Laval, the Canadiens' AHL affiliate, on a conditioning loan in a 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs' affiliate.

Price made 13 saves on 15 shots in 40 minutes. He missed 19 of the Canadiens' final 21 regular-season games because of injuries, including the last 13 with a concussion.

Price is expected to start Game 1 at Toronto. He did not speak to media after the Laval game.

"He's excited. He's excited for this opportunity and, you know, it's never fun to be out of the lineup," Gallagher said of Price. "You can cheer for your teammates and all that, but it was a frustrating time for him, for sure. And the excitement and the hunger is definitely there, and it's nice to see.

"… You know as soon as the game starts to slow down for you, you feel more comfortable and confident, and for him, the same way. As the game went on, he felt more and more comfortable and he was able to read the play and read the puck. It's just something you can't really simulate, and this was a really good opportunity for him."

Gallagher was minus-1 with two shots on goal in around 17:00 of ice time. He missed Montreal's final 21 games with a broken thumb but is expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Maple Leafs, as is defenseman Shea Weber, who missed the final eight games with an upper-body injury.

"The injury is now in the back of my head," Gallagher said. "You know, I don't have to think about it, everything felt good. There were some certain areas, but I'll blame those more with the lungs, and as the game went on, I feel more and more comfortable."

Price said Sunday that he is feeling healthy and is optimistic about the Canadiens beginning the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a clean slate.

"It's a golden opportunity, we're all excited to play," Price said. "I know for myself it's an exciting opportunity to play in the playoffs again for a second straight year, so we're looking forward to getting into that first game and trying to build some momentum."

Price sustained a concussion in a collision with Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson on April 19, his second start after missing six games with a lower-body injury. He said he had bad symptoms the next two days, including a headache.

"It wasn't a pleasant time, so I'm thankful to be feeling better now," Price said.

Price was 12-7-5 with a 2.64 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games this season. His save percentage was the second-lowest of his 14-season NHL career; he had a .900 save percentage in 49 games (48 starts) in 2017-18.

During the playoffs last season, Price had a 1.78 GAA, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games. He helped the Canadiens defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers before they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round.

Gallagher was injured April 5 against the Oilers when he was struck by teammate Alexander Romanov's shot. He said Saturday that he doesn't expect it will be difficult to get reacclimated with regular linemates Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar.

"It doesn't take long for us," Gallagher said. "We spend enough time together so there should be no rustiness. I think everyone's feeling pretty good and hopefully we get back to doing what we do."

Danault is expected to return from a concussion that caused him to miss the final three regular-season games.

Danault, Gallagher and Tatar will be tasked with defending Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. Matthews leads the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games. Marner is fourth in the NHL with 67 points (20 goals, 47 assists) in 55 games.

"Marner and Matthews are two elite players, two superstars," Danault said Sunday. "It's normal that they get points in almost every game, a bit like [Connor] McDavid and [Leon] Draisaitl (of the Oilers). They're like a two-headed monster too. They're players who go everywhere. They go to the right places to score. They're tough to contain and it's very rewarding when you do. They're excellent players and it's tough every time you face them."

Price laughed Sunday when asked if he had learned anything about how to read Matthews' shot.

"I wouldn't tell you if I did, but he's definitely got a deceptive release and you just have to react to it, try to read it as best as possible," Price said. "There's no secrets to it. We know he's got a world-class shot and we need to try to take that opportunity away from him as much as possible."

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