MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens’ demoralizing season went from bad to worse on Thursday.
The Canadiens announced veteran defenceman Shea Weber will miss the rest of the season as he undergoes surgery for a torn tendon in his left foot. The 32-year-old has not played since Dec. 16.
Later in the day, they announced that Goaltender Carey Price will also be sidelined indefinitely with a concussion. Price took a shot to the mask in Tuesday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
"It seems that everything that could have gone wrong this year, has," said coach Claude Julien before Montreal’s game against the New York Rangers on Thursday. "From the start of the season, and Price getting injured, and now Shea."
Weber is believed to have been injured when he was hit by a shot in the opening game of the regular season. Julien said Weber played through the pain until he had to come out of the lineup. He skated in 20 of the first 21 games, took six games off, then played six more before going on the injured list for good.
Julien said keeping Weber in the lineup did not aggravate the injury and denied the team had mismanaged their star defenceman. He said shutting down Weber for the remainder of the season was "the right thing to do."
"What we tried to do, and what the medical staff tried to do, was get him healed without surgery," said the Canadiens bench boss. "There was a good possibility that could happen. And that’s always the first option you take.
"This was handled the right way. We tried to get him back without needing surgery, but it didn’t work. Now’s the right time to do this, so that he’s 100 per cent before next year’s training camp."
Price, meanwhile, is out indefinitely after being struck by a shot from Shayne Gostisbehere in the second period of a 3-2 overtime defeat in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Price appeared shaken up by the shot but stayed in the game. Julien said the 30-year-old began showing signs of concussion on Wednesday.
"The next morning the trainers came to see me and told me that he had some symptoms and that we had to have a closer look at him," said Julien. "He’ll continue to get evaluated on a daily basis. You never know with concussions. It could be short term. It could be long term. So we’ll see."
Price has a 15-22-6 record this season with a 2.98 goals-against-average and an uncharacteristically low .904 save percentage.
Antti Niemi will get the start in net against the Rangers on Thursday. Backup Charlie Lindgren was recalled from the AHL on an emergency basis.
"If Carey is out for a while, you’ll probably see both goalies play," said Julien.
The Canadiens coach added that shutting down Weber had nothing to do with Montreal’s place in the standings. The Habs are 13 points out of a playoff spot with the fourth-worst record in the league (22-29-8).
The team’s medical staff admitted that Weber’s injury didn’t heal as expected.
"After further exams, and a consultation on Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin with specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, and with Shea’s approval, it has been determined that he should undergo surgery and will be out for the reminder of the season," team orthopedic surgeon Paul Martineau said in a statement.
"Our medical group will work with Shea to ensure he is pursuing the best course of treatment moving forward, and we expect him to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of training camp next season. The length of his recovery will be determined following surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Anderson."
The Canadiens obtained Weber from the Nashville Predators on June 29, 2016 in a one-for-one deal for rearguard P. K. Subban, a deeply unpopular move with many Canadiens fans. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin preferred Weber’s size, physicality and leadership to Subban’s skillful but sometimes risky style.
Weber also brings perhaps the NHL’s hardest point shot on power plays.
The Sicamous, B.C. native has six goals and 10 assists in 26 games this season. He has 189 goals and 501 points in 867 career NHL contests.