Carey Price’s first action back from a season-ending MCL injury will come at the World Cup of Hockey. It’ll be the first time he sees a game of that caliber since late-November, which was the last time he suited up and participated with the Montreal Canadiens.
Price’s usage with Team Canada will be interesting to watch, especially with him returning from injury and a stable of excellent goaltenders ready to step in if there are any concerns about Price’s ability to start.
"With the number of games he missed last year, it will be fun for him to have large-caliber matches,” Canadiens goalie coach Stephane Waite told La Presse’s Guillaume LeFrancois. “It is not very demanding, because we will play six or seven games, depending on where it goes. This is no more (difficult than) if it was a camp with the Canadiens. This is only positive.”
But regardless of his playing time at the World Cup, the one thing for certain is that when Price gets back to the Canadiens, there will be a plan in place to keep Price fresh and healthy by limiting his starts. In fact, Waite said the goal is to keep Price in the 60-start range.
Even though the Canadiens want to limit Price’s starts, Waite told LeFrancois that it’s not a move that was made out of concern for the all-world goaltender’s health. According to Waite, the plan was actually put in place ahead of the 2015-16 season, but the Canadiens weren’t able to follow it, because, well, Price got hurt.
Price had previously stuck around the 60-start mark during the 2013-14 campaign, but that, too, was in part because of injury. During the 2014-15 campaign — the season in which Price won the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy, as well as the Ted Lindsay and William Jennings Awards — he started 66 games. Price’s game didn’t suffer from the workload as he posted a .933 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average to go along with nine shutouts, but the Canadiens want to reduce Price’s schedule regardless.
That’s part of the reason why Montreal GM Marc Bergevin dipped into the free agent pool and signed Al Montoya. The 31-year-old has been a steady backup for much of the past several seasons and offers an upgrade over Mike Condon, who played well at the start of his tenure as Price’s backup but fell apart in the back half of the season.
But to start the season, the Canadiens are expecting Price to be back in full form. Waite told LeFrancois that they’ve gotten Price back to doing everything he would normally do, which is an important step, according to Waite.
"Mentally, it was important that he knows he can do anything, everything is fine,” Waite told LeFrancois. “It’s important for an athlete, even if rehabilitation goes well, to do the movements on the ice.”
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