BROSSARD, Que.—It was a question worth asking when what was supposed to be a six-week recovery turned into 12 and the Montreal Canadiens edged closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
It’s a question that has even more merit today, with the team mathematically eliminated from the post-season and just six games remaining on their schedule.
When are the Canadiens going to shut down Carey Price? The answer is clear: they’re not going to.
Price, who suffered a lower body injury on Nov. 25, has been practising with Montreal’s injured for several weeks. He’s made slow but steady progress all along, and so long as that’s the case the Canadiens have no incentive to pull the plug.
“Since I’ve been with him, I can see the improvements he’s been making,” said Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. “Every day he’s on the ice is a positive thing.”
Gallagher, who missed 17 games earlier this season with finger fractures and will miss his 11th straight game with a lower body injury when the Canadiens welcome the Detroit Red Wings to the Bell Centre Tuesday, knows a thing or two about what Price is going through.
“I’ve talked to him about my injuries and how frustrating it feels,” said Gallagher. “It’s been even more so for him.”
You have to believe Price, who has spent most of his days working out in the gym and on the ice since late December, would love nothing more than to clear the mental hurdle of uncertainty rather than have it loom overhead all summer.
He’s already ruled himself out of the World Championship this May — albeit for a personal reason as opposed to a physical one — as his wife, Angela, is due with the couple’s first child on April 29.
But extra incentive to appear in at least one game between here and the end of the season could be found in dismissing the idea that he shouldn’t play for Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September.
“Once you’re cleared to play you get to put it all behind you,” said Gallagher. “You don’t even think about it—I don’t think you can when you’re on the ice. You have enough things to think about when you’re out there.”
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, who’s a member of GM Doug Armstrong’s World Cup staff, has already guaranteed several times that Price won’t return unless he’s completely rehabilitated.
Whether that happens between now and the end of the season is anyone’s guess.
Price didn’t participate in Tuesday’s morning skate with his teammates, and you’d have to assume he didn’t go through over four months of rehabilitation to jump straight into a game without getting in more than one full practice.
If Price can’t travel with the Canadiens to Tampa Bay Wednesday, if he can’t join them in Florida before Saturday, his next opportunity to be on the ice with his teammates will be April 4. That would make it all but certain he won’t be able to play at the Bell Centre April 5.
The Canadiens will then finish out the season with a game in Carolina on April 7 and one at home against the Lightning on the 9th.
The odds of seeing Price in a game again this season are getting longer by the day, but no one in the organization is giving up on the possibility.