Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price skated with his teammates again Monday at practise after skating alone while the team was on their recent four-game road trip. Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis didn’t have an exact timetable for Price to return and play in his first game of the season.
St. Louis liked what he saw from Price Monday but cautioned that, as head coach, he’s not 100-percent focused on the goalies at practise.
“It’s tough to tell,” St. Louis acknowledged when asked about what he thought of Price at practice Monday. “I thought today he looked good but I’m not focused on every rep that he takes. When you’re running a practice, especially when you have the whistle and stuff, sometimes you’re just focused on so many things but the shot that’s gonna be taken on Carey, but from what I saw today, what I noticed, I thought he looked pretty good.”
Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher, who skated in a full-contact jersey, and said he feels ‘good to go’ to return to the Habs lineup on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators, felt like Price seemed as close to normal as he’s been during this season-long attempt to come back.
“Yeah, I mean he always looks good to me,” Gallagher cracked with a smile when asked what he thought of his longtime teammate’s performance Monday. “If you’re wondering if I scored on him, the answer’s no so he’s ready to go. He’s been working hard; he’s eager to go. It’s been a challenging year for all of us and he’s definitely no different. He’s been through a lot and he’s worked hard for this so hopefully he can get back in there soon.”
As Gallagher pointed out, the tell-tale signs that Price is close to normal is when he’s moving post-to-post with ease and precision, something he was doing between the pipes on Monday.
“Well, he’s a competitive guy,” Gallagher said of his longtime teammate. “He doesn’t like. …well letting in any goals really, but when he’s able to push across the crease and really challenge you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a goalie be able to do something like that. The way he can move side to side, and he’s square to the puck at all times. He’s never out of the net and when he has that power and that push, he’s a tough guy to beat.”
Like St. Louis, Gallagher had no idea when Price would be doing that in an NHL game again but he’s thrilled to see his friend and teammate getting closer to playing the game he loves.
“You’re really happy for him obviously,” Gallagher said of seeing Price as close to normal as he’s been for awhile now. “As a teammate, as a friend, as a guy that’s made you look good for ten years, you’re happy to see him back there. You know how much it means to him – even little steps like this – back practicing with the team mean a lot to him and he’s getting closer. I don’t know when it will be but he’s getting closer and as teammates, you’re excited and you’re happy for the guy.”
Price has yet to play this season. He underwent knee surgery on July 23 and was sidelined for 30 days this fall to deal with a substance abuse problem through the NHL Assistance Program and the NHL Players’ Association. His fitness program was then derailed by COVID-19 and then recently by another illness.
Last week at the NHL general manager meetings, Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes expressed optimism that Price would return this season and was excited for Carey Price to gain a piece of mind as to where his career stands right now and going forward.
“Probably most importantly for Carey, I think, when you struggle through this type of an injury and you try to come back, and you get frustrated time and time again, I think it’s going to be a huge weight off his shoulders and give him a little bit of peace of mind to be able to return and play,” Hughes said a week ago.
On Monday, St. Louis echoed the same sentiment when asked why the team feels it’s important for Price to return this season.
“I don’t know, that’s something you’d have to ask the management,” St. Louis said. “But, I know for Carey, it’s important to see where he’s at and take that into the summer. For him to have some answers going into the summer, I think it’s real important for his own individual thing but for me, if you get a small sample of Carey this year and some encouraging things from him – whether it’s his play or how he feels after his play – I think the Montreal Canadiens are in a better place because it’s Carey Price.”