BROSSARD, Que. — The Montreal Canadiens will be without goaltender Carey Price when they play their home-opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday.
Price, who was diagnosed with a severe case of the flu last week, was on the ice for roughly 40 minutes with Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite on Monday before leaving ahead of the team’s scheduled practice.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Price wouldn’t be available to the Canadiens until he puts back whatever weight he’s lost and has regained the amount of energy required to play NHL hockey.
“Yesterday he started to feel a bit better, he came in and did a little bit of a workout,” said Therrien. “Today the first step was to step on the ice, but for sure he’s not 100 per cent. He had a pretty good virus, and people who get those kind of viruses—they know it doesn’t take 24 hours and you feel great. He’s day-to-day.”
It’s been 331 days since Price started a regular-season game at the Bell Centre for the Canadiens. An injury to his right knee kept him out of 11 games last November and a sprained medial collateral ligament sidelined him for the team’s final 59 games of last season.
Price’s last start in a Canadiens uniform was a 6-1 pre-season win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, Oct. 6. It was the only exhibition game he appeared in after backstopping Team Canada to a World Cup of hockey victory in September.
The Canadiens are aware that fans are beginning to wonder if there’s something more to Price’s early-season absence.
“My own family is getting conspiratorial, they don’t believe it,” said Canadiens assistant captain Brendan Gallagher. “I keep telling them it’s a flu. It’s just a really bad flu. He’s going to deal with it. He’s getting better, which is a good sign. He’ll be back sooner than later.”
Backup Al Montoya, who signed a one-year, $950,000 contract with the Canadiens on July 1, will make his third start of the season on Tuesday. He stopped 30 of 31 shots in 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in his Canadiens debut last Thursday, and he made 35 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators last Saturday.
When asked if he was nervous to play his first home game in front of Canadiens fans, Montoya said it would be no different than the other two games he’s already played.
“For me it’s about opportunity,” said the 31-year-old netminder. “For myself, getting a chance to showcase myself and giving the team a good chance to win and knowing where I can take my game to the next level—it’s just another opportunity to play and that’s all I see it as.”
Sergachev returns to lineup
Canadiens rookie defenceman Mikhail Sergachev will be given another opportunity to play when the Penguins visit Tuesday.
The NHL’s youngest player, who was made a healthy scratch for Montreal’s loss to the Senators Saturday, played 11:48 against the Sabres last Thursday. He will take defenceman Greg Pateryn’s place for Tuesday’s contest.
Coach Therrien said the Canadiens are wanting to bring Sergachev along slowly but are also wanting to keep him fresh and game-ready.
“He needs to get used to the tempo of the NHL,” said Therrien in French. “We know the tempo is pretty fast and [Tuesday] we’re hosting the reigning Stanley Cup champions. It’s a challenge, not only for him but for our whole team, to play against the champs and measure ourselves early in the season.”
Sergachev said the experience of watching a game from the press box helped him realize how quickly he needs to move the puck and where he needs to move it to.
Sergachev also mentioned he’s excited to have his parents and younger sister in attendance to watch him play his first regular-season game at the Bell Centre.
“It will be the best moment of my life and of their lives, too” said Sergachev. “It’s a special moment.”