If the Montreal Canadiens are going to earn a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, they’ll have to do it without Carey Price.
Montreal’s French-language La Presse is reporting that team officials don't expect the injured netminder to return to action any time soon.
“According to our sources, the Canadiens aren’t expecting on a regular season return for their star goalie, who has been sidelined since November by a right knee injury which team management still refuses to confirm. The reigning Vezina winner could, in a very optimistic scenario, return towards the end of the season, or perhaps in time for the playoffs.”
Although he’s been participating in light skates for several weeks, the injury reportedly prevents Price from doing any work in his goalie equipment. Although they don’t believe he requires surgery, the rest-and-rehab approach is just as costly.
“The Canadiens do not believe he will return to the regular season, but we can not say it publicly,” the source told La Presse. “We want to keep hope alive, even if it is thin. We don’t want fans to abandon the team. There is a marketing aspect to this situation.”
The last official statement from the team came from general manager Marc Bergevin on Jan. 21 when he suggested that Price would be sidelined for another three to four weeks. At the end of November, the team projected Price to be out for a minimum of six weeks.
Price last played on Nov. 25 against the Rangers in New York. Since then Montreal has gone into a devastating 10-20-2 tailspin, dropping from first place in the Atlantic Division to fifth. The team is currently on a three-game winning streak, its best stretch of hockey since his injury, but remains three points and two teams removed from a wild card berth in the East. Ben Scrivens, acquired in late-December from the Oilers, has given the team excellent goaltending in those three contests, allowing just four goals on 98 shots (a .959 save percentage). He’ll likely carry the load the rest of the way, but his history of inconsistency suggests the Habs will need a miracle to punch their ticket to the postseason.
While this is disastrous for fans of the Canadiens, the news is better for Canadian fans. Price reportedly has told relatives he intends to represent Canada at the World Cup of Hockey, set to get underway Sept. 17 in Toronto.