MONTREAL (AP) The Montreal Canadiens have already had to deal with a nine-game stretch without star goaltender Carey Price so far this season.
But now they'll have to get by without him for much longer.
The Canadiens said Monday that Price will be out at least six weeks with a lower-body injury that he sustained during a 5-1 win over the Rangers in New York last week. He will not require surgery.
Last season's Hart and Vezina Trophy winner is expected to miss at least 16 games, with only a slim chance he could return for the Winter Classic outdoor game Jan. 1 in Foxborough, Massachusetts, if he heals quickly.
''He's a big part of our team,'' star defenseman P.K. Subban said. ''But if we think we're going to get any sympathy from the teams we're going to play in the next six weeks, we're not.
''The good thing is we've had to deal with not having Price in the lineup for a little while already and we know what that means. When a key part of your team goes down, everyone has to pull up their socks and be a little better.''
Because of the injury, first-year backup Mike Condon returns to the starting role. The Boston-area native went 5-2-2 when Price was out from late October to mid-November, although he started to look shaky at the end of that run.
Price returned for two games, winning both, and played the first 40 minutes in New York when he was injured again.
Condon took over for the third period, then started a back-to-back series on the weekend against New Jersey, earning a shootout win and an overtime loss.
This season, Condon is 8-2-3 with a solid 2.19 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
''I'm a lot more comfortable,'' Condon said. ''I've had 14 appearances so far, so every time you go out there it gets a little more familiar and easier.''
General manager Marc Bergevin said he will not go shopping for another goaltender just yet.
''I don't discuss transactions, but we're really comfortable with Mike,'' Bergevin said. ''I don't feel there's a need.
''We have Mike and Ticker (Tokarski). I was at (an AHL game) and Zach Fucale played really well. That's why you have many goalies in your system. Now, if we lose three goalies, that's a different story.''
Fucale was recalled from St. John's of the American Hockey League on Monday to back up Condon. Tokarski, who allowed two goals in one period of NHL action this season, was assigned to the IceCaps.
Bergevin said he was convinced by team doctors and trainers that Price did not return too early from his previous injury.
''It was not because he came back too quick that he got injured, but I understand the question,'' Bergevin said. ''You always wonder if that was the case, but we looked into it really deeply and that was not the case.''
When Price returned from his previous injury, his teammates spoke of how they kept winning and proved they are not entirely dependent on their star goalie.
Last season, losing Price would have been costly for a team that gave up too many shots and scoring chances.
This season's team plays a stronger all-around game, with much-improved special teams. The Canadiens also lead the league with 88 goals scored in 25 games.
''It's a unique situation because Price is our leader,'' defenseman Nathan Beaulieu said. ''We almost owe it to him to continue playing and not moan about him not being there.''
The Canadiens are also missing first-line right wing Brendan Gallagher and center Torrey Mitchell with injuries.