BROSSARD, Que. — The Montreal Canadiens put an end to over four months of speculation Wednesday by divulging the nature of goaltender Carey Price’s injury that has kept him out of the lineup since November.
The Canadiens revealed that last season’s Vezina Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy winner suffered an MCL sprain to his right knee against the New York Rangers on Nov. 25.
Price missed eight games from Oct. 30 to Nov. 19 with an unrelated injury before returning against the New York Islanders on Nov. 20. He appeared in one more game before suffering the knee injury in the second period against the Rangers.
“The recovery process can be long in the case of an elite netminder such as Carey, due to the high demand placed on this anatomical structure by modern goaltending techniques,” Montreal’s head physician Dr. Vincent Lacroix said in a team release. “He is expected to make a full recovery over the off-season.”
Price’s recovery was expected to take a minimum of six weeks. The Canadiens chose to keep the precise nature of his injury under wraps until Wednesday.
“For us, what is the most important thing is the safety of our players,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said in French. “Not all teams choose to keep injuries secret but most teams do. For example, one of the best players in the league is hurt right now, (Pittsburgh Penguins forward) Evgeni Malkin. Does somebody know where he hurts?
“It’s the same thing for us. As long as a player has a chance to come back and play, for us, player safety is going to be important.”
There was a point in time when the Canadiens approached Price to see if he would like to put an end to the speculation surrounding his injury but the Anahim Lake, B.C., native declined.
“Normal people don’t give their doctor updates daily, so I don’t see why I would really have to either,” Price said.
Price suffered an MCL sprain in his right knee following a collision with Rangers forward Chris Kreider in May 2014. He said Wednesday that he still felt the effects of the injury three months after it occurred, which gave him an inclination of how long the recuperation from this most recent injury could take.
Price still remained hopeful that he could return sooner.
“During this whole process we were always optimistic,” Price said. “No setbacks. You’d make some progression and then it felt like I would stay there for a while. We’d change things up with what we were doing in the gym and we’d start seeing a little bit of progress.”
Price began to skate on his own in January and in late February he transitioned to skating in full goaltending equipment.
The 28-year-old began to field shots from other injured members of the Canadiens in March before finally joining a full team practice last week.
“(I was) really close (to returning),” Price said. “Especially over the last two weeks I felt like my progression was really speeded up. I can’t really say for sure, but I’d say probably a couple more weeks and I’d be back into game action.”
The frustration of missing what will be 70 games by season’s end and not being able to help Montreal when it struggled in December and January after a record-setting start to the season remains an open wound for Price.
“It was definitely, probably the most challenging year of my career,” Price said. “When you’re not playing and you’re not a part of the process, it’s tough to come into the room and tell guys things. When you’re injured, you’re a part of the team but you don’t feel a part of the team.”
Price has ruled out an appearance at the world championship in Russia in May as he and his wife Angela are expecting their first child at the end of April.
But Price insists he’ll be prepared to compete for Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto this September and he’s not concerned about re-injuring himself before the Canadiens’ 2016-17 season.
“Part of things that I’ve learned is prevention, proper techniques just for getting prepared for practices,” Price said.
He was among 18 players from Montreal’s opening-day roster to have missed games due to injury this season.
Defenceman P.K. Subban, who suffered a neck injury March 10, will also sit out Montreal’s final two games.
“Ultimately the doctors said there’s three things,” Subban said. “You have to have 100 per cent mobility, no pain, and then psychologically be prepared to play. Right now all three of those categories just aren’t fulfilled yet.”
Subban, who was not among the first 16 players named to Team Canada’s World Cup roster, was asked by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin to participate in the world championship.
“I’ve always looked forward to playing for my country,” said Subban. “But obviously now, sitting out 12 games — you’re not sure when you’re going to turn the corner.
“For them, they have to be prepared to play the tournament, and I think it’s April 28 they leave. So I spoke to Marc about it last night and I couldn’t give them a decision. … At this point in time, I don’t know when I’ll be completely cleared to play.”