Canadiens are right to allow healthy Carey Price chance to play

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien comments on playing injured superstar goaltender Carey Price.

BROSSARD, Que. — Carey Price just wants to do what he’s being paid to do.

Given that the 30-year-old goaltender has medical clearance to do it, he should be allowed to do it.

Yes, we’re aware Price suffered a concussion on Feb. 20. We know that returning to play any of the Montreal Canadiens’ remaining nine games seems like a fruitless endeavour — with them virtually eliminated from post-season contention. We understand and even acknowledge that concerns about him being exposed to further injury when he’s set to make record-breaking money at the start of next season are reasonable.

Even Price appreciates that perspective.

“Sure, I get that,” he said after Montreal’s practice on Tuesday. “But if anybody was standing here in my shoes, they’d know what it’s like to be here. So, as an athlete, you want to get back in and play the game. That’s what I’m here for: to play.”

And that’s what Price will do when the Canadiens visit the Penguins in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

He has no trepidation about it and neither do we.

“The old saying back home is: You can’t go worrying about the fall if you’re going to ride the horse,” Price said.

He’s right.

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We’d feel differently about it if he was rushing back to action just days after suffering the second documented concussion of his career (the last one was in 2012).

We’d definitely feel uneasy about it if the Canadiens weren’t being particularly careful with Phillip Danault, who suffered a concussion back in January, returned for 10 games and is now sitting out because neck pain is causing him headaches.

Heck, Andrew Shaw was knocked out in a game against the Dallas Stars on March 13 and though he hasn’t been diagnosed with a concussion, the Canadiens are treating it as though he has one and proceeding with extreme caution.

Ales Hemsky suffered a concussion on Oct. 20 and though he’s been skating on his own and was even cleared for contact a few weeks back, there hasn’t been enough substantial progress in his case to activate him.

“I’m not optimistic he’ll return this season,” said Canadiens coach Claude Julien on Tuesday. “Minimal chance. There’s nine games left and we won’t say he won’t be back, but I’m doubting we’ll see him again this season.”

The right approach has been taken in all of these cases. If there was any doubt about Price being 100 per cent, he wouldn’t be returning.

We saw the merit of shutting No. 1 defenceman Shea Weber down — even before we knew he was going to need season-ending surgery to repair tendons in his left foot. He had been playing hurt since the first game of the season and in spite of all the different treatments taken to help solve the issue, he just wasn’t getting better. He was only feeling worse as time wore on.

But that isn’t the case with Price, so why prohibit him from doing what he’s under contract to do?

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

“These are athletes being paid to do a job,” said Julien. “We have to make decisions and I think in Carey’s case he wants absolutely to play. Maybe it’s important for him to finish the season on a good note and he wants to do everything he can to accomplish that. We can’t be too delicate with situations like this where we’re telling him his season’s done and that it’ll help him next year. Will it hurt him? We can’t say. Athletes are proud and want to play and I think we want to see Carey in front of our net.

“No matter what we say, people will have opinions that vary, but at the end of the day it’s us who make decisions based on the information we have.”

Julien also said Price won’t be overtaxed from here to the end of the season and that he’s committed to playing both him and Antti Niemi in a rotation over the final nine games.

If you’re worried about Price’s return affecting Montreal’s draft lottery odds, keep in mind he still has 12 players in front of him who played in the AHL at one point or another this season. He’s good enough to keep them in games and make them believe they can win some, but Niemi — and Charlie Lindgren to an extent — has been doing the same in recent weeks and the Canadiens haven’t improved at all in the standings.

Price just wants to finish the season on his terms. “Just give a good effort and stay positive throughout the rest of the season,” are things he said he’s hoping to accomplish.

“We don’t have high expectations, but we want to make sure we really have a really good effort and that’s what matters most,” Price said.

He’s healthy enough to contribute and that’s a good enough reason to allow him to do it.

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