NEW YORK — Martin St. Louis said he didn’t think it was setback, Josh Anderson then said it’s “just an update” and a “check-up,” but we’d call it a concern.
Carey Price wasn’t initially scheduled to travel with St. Louis, Anderson and the rest of the Montreal Canadiens to Manhattan, but the team announced on Tuesday—after a practice Price didn’t participate in—that he would be making the trip in the end to meet with surgeon Robert Marx about his knee.
It was last July when Price had a torn meniscus repaired by Dr. Marx. The Canadiens announced then it would take Price roughly 10-12 weeks to recover and that he was expected to be prepared to start the 2021-22 season on time.
But it wasn’t trending that way before Price left for the NHL/NHLPA players assistance program in October, and his recovery from the knee surgery dragged and dragged until he admitted, in January, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to ever play again.
Now, after finally returning to play on April 15 and making three more appearances in Montreal’s net, the franchise goaltender has gone from just needing a bit of rest to being listed as “day-to-day” and needing to meet with his surgeon.
Price last played on Saturday in Ottawa, in a 6-3 loss to the Senators during which he appeared anything but comfortable. Then, St. Louis announced they were giving him a break after playing four games in eight nights. He wasn’t dressed for Sunday’s game against the Bruins, and there should be legitimate concern he won’t dress for the final one of the season Friday, when the Canadiens host the Florida Panthers.
“I thought it was a big plus for him to fight and get back from a long year of dealing with his injury,” St. Louis told reporters in Brossard, Que., on Tuesday. “But we knew that it wasn’t just going to be smooth sailing. There’s possibilities, and I think that’s where we’re at and that’s why he’s getting looked at.”
Where we’re at appears to be where Price started—hurt and facing the prospect of another rehabilitation he might not be willing to put himself through.
The hope has to be that Price’s meeting with Dr. Marx doesn’t lead him down that long, arduous road once again.
When we asked the goaltender in January if he’d be willing to travel it, he skated around the question.
What Price did say then is something that resonates now—especially with him at less than 100 per cent and after having allowed 12 goals over his last two starts.
“When you go through an injury like this, and you've had setbacks, which I've had them before, there's always going to be a little bit of doubt. That's just the fact of being injured,” Price said. “You're an athlete performing at apex level, you're always going to wonder if you're going to be the same player when you come back.”
It was after making 17 saves on 19 shots in his first game back—a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders two Fridays ago—that Price stated his short-term goals would be to “start feeling good about my game in general” and “to be able to feel like I’m playing at a level I feel is acceptable.”
It’s questionable at best now those goals can be met.
As for continuing through the remaining four years of his $84-million contract, that has been in doubt since much earlier this season.
And that doubt only deepened over the weekend.
Price has said on multiple occasions the nature of his position, coupled with his injury history and his age, have made recovering from knee injuries a much more extensive and complicated process than it would be for other athletes. Should his meeting with the doctor reveal he’s got another one to rehab, his playing future wouldn’t just depend on whether or not he’s willing start over again; it would also depend on whether or not he could recover well enough to play at the level he needs to be able to play at over a season.
Or two, or three, or four.
Maybe Price really did just need a bit of rest after heavy exertion in practice and games came following such an extensive layoff. Perhaps his trip to New York and his meeting with Dr. Marx on Wednesday reveals nothing more than a bit of swelling and nothing else to really be concerned about.
But until we get an update later this week from the Canadiens, there’s enough here to be worried about.