MONTREAL (AP) -Carey Price is ready to return for the Montreal Canadiens, and is one step closer to achieving his offseason goal of starting the NHL All-Star game in front of his home crowd.
Price was elected in fan voting to start Sunday's showcase game at the Bell Centre, but missed the last eight games with an ankle injury that put his appearance at risk.
"I haven't been verbally told, but I haven't been verbally told I'm not going, either," Price said following practice Monday. "First and foremost you've got to get back to 100 percent and I feel like I am. It's not my decision in the end."
Price, in his second season, was scheduled to start for the Eastern Conference squad along with Montreal teammates Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek and Alex Kovalev and Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau - the East's assistant coach - said last week that he didn't expect Price to play Sunday if he was unable to first return with the Canadiens this week. Veteran goalie Marc Denis was sent to Hamilton of the AHL on Sunday night, clearing the way for Price's return to the lineup.
Denis made one relief appearance for backup Jaroslav Halak, who started all eight games during Price's absence, including a 5-4 shootout win in Ottawa on Saturday night.
Price will dress for Tuesday night's game in Atlanta, though Carbonneau had not decided whether he will start either that game or the following night in New Jersey.
Carbonneau essentially cleared Price to make his All-Star debut Sunday, regardless of whether he plays this week.
"He feels good," Carbonneau said. "He had a really good practice today so I don't see why he wouldn't play in the All-Star game, but I haven't made any plans on the next two games."
And while Price appears to be cleared for the showcase game, Carbonneau would rather see his young star steer clear of Saturday's skills competition because of its demands on the goalies, compared to what they face during the game.
"I know they're going to face a lot of shots, but it's not like they have to bring their level high," Carbonneau said. "In the skill competition, I think it's a little different, so I hope he stays away from that."
Rick DiPietro injured a hip while trying to stop Minnesota's Marian Gaborik during a breakaway drill in last year's All-Star skills competition.
The New York Islanders goalie started the All-Star game the following day, but struggled following the break. An MRI exam in March revealed that DiPietro needed season-ending surgery to repair his right hip.
In addition to Price's return, Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins practiced Monday and will accompany the Canadiens on their brief two-game road trip, though it's unlikely that either of the injured forwards will play before the All-Star break.
The Canadiens changed their policy on disclosing long-term injuries last week, revealing that Koivu had a sprained ankle and enforcer Georges Laraque was sidelined by a back injury.