Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price will practice alone Friday afternoon at Bell Centre with his equipment on for the first time, coach Michel Therrien said.
Price, who won the Hart and Vezina trophies last season, has been out since Nov. 25 because of a lower-body injury. He won't travel with the Canadiens for their upcoming road trip that begins Monday against the San Jose Sharks.
"This is the next step and we're all happy about that," Therrien said.
The initial prognosis was Price would need six weeks to recover from his injury, then it was announced he would not return until after the All-Star break. But on Jan. 21, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he expected Price to need another 3-4 weeks to recover. Friday marked five weeks since Bergevin made those comments.
The Canadiens defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Wednesday to improve to 29-27-5 for 63 points, five behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
As the Canadiens playoff hopes began to dwindle over the months of December and January, with five wins over a stretch of 26 games, some began to wonder whether it was worthwhile to have Price return this season at all.
Therrien said that remains the goal, but can't say for sure whether it will happen.
"Anything is possible," he said. "We hope he'll be able to come back, he's been working very hard with that in mind. But I don't have the answer to that question. What I can tell you is that he is working very hard in order to come back and play."