Some good news for Montreal Canadiens fans: Injured netminder Carey Price says he’s “pretty confident” that he will be back at some point this season.
Price, who last was seen in action on November 25, spoke to the media for the first time on Thursday. He got a laugh from the room when describing how he feels on a scale of 1-10—“Let’s say somewhere between 3 and 7?”—but wouldn't offer a timeline on when he might return to the lineup.
“I love playing hockey and I want to be out there as quickly as possible,” he said. “I want to be out there playing the game that I love.
"It's not a matter of protecting me," he said, specifically addressing those who want to see him shut down for the season. "I'm going to play, regardless. I’d rather do it sooner than later.
"The goal is to come back with 100% confidence."
Price skated in full pads for the third day this week at the team's practice facility in Brossard, taking shots from injured teammate David Desharnais.
“I hadn’t seen a shot for three months [before this week],” he said. “To go out on the ice and do some real work, it’s been really nice.”
There has been speculation that Price's lower-body injury, which has never been specifically identified by the Canadiens, was exacerbated by an early return from an injury he suffered back in October. He denied any correlation.
"Yeah, I came back quickly, but I don’t think me getting injured the second time necessarily was from coming back too early,” he said.
Surgery to address the issue, which is thought to be a knee injury, was never an option, Price said. The injury just needs time to heal. "Obviously, it’s taken longer than I expected. I keep pushing my limits, especially since I started training in full equipment. I’m continuing the process. It’s been a really long one, obviously."
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While he's been out of action, the Canadiens have gone belly up. The team is 13-24-4 without the NHL’s reigning MVP and has dropped out of the playoff picture. That, he said, has been the hardest part of his rehab. “Well, it’s been a tough stretch. It’s no secret that we weren’t scoring goals ... It seemed that we just weren’t quite connecting.”
He had a kind word for Mike Condon, the rookie netminder who's been forced to carry the load during Price’s convalescence.
“It’s a difficult situation [for Condon]," he said. "Most nights he’s playing extremely well. He’s a hard worker.”
Price also touched briefly on his selection to Team Canada for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
“It’s an honor to be chosen to represent your country," said Price, who was the breakout star of the 2014 Olympic tournament. "I want to be part of the team.”
Canada might also like to have him in Moscow where the country will defend the world championship it won last year in Prague, but Price already has pulled his name from consideration. His wife is expected to give birth on April 29, one week before the tournament kicks off on May 6.