Dubious price to start the season on time

BROSSARD, Que. – Update on Carey Price via Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme: The 34-year-old goaltender, who underwent off-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus, has gone from “if he’s not ready for the first day of training camp, he “will be ready shortly thereafter” to “if he misses the first game of the regular season, we don’t think it’s going to go on forever.”

That’s not exactly what the team’s fans were hoping for 12 days into training camp and nine days into the season in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.

Price was supposed to be back on the ice on Monday after a week and a half of rest to make sure his rehab stayed on schedule and that no swelling was caused by his previous workouts, but he didn’t. could not be at the rink due to an illness unrelated to COVID. And Ducharme said that even though Price is due back at the training facility on Tuesday, confidence is starting to wane, the Anahim, BC native will be ready to start the season on time.

“For Carey, in the (rehab) plan, he would have skated more recently,” said Ducharme.

The plan was for Price to skate regularly before joining his teammates in training and possibly appearing in one of the last two preseason games scheduled for this week, but he hasn’t been on the scene much. ice – if at all – since we snapped this video on September 21st.

Now that Price has been ruled out by Ducharme for the game in Toronto on Tuesday and the one in Montreal on Thursday, we’re not sure there should be any confidence that he’ll be ready for next Wednesday.

This is not alarming news, nor too surprising, even if it is upsetting for Canadiens fans. When the team announced that Price would be missing between 10 and 12 weeks after a successful surgery in New York, it put him at risk of being out until October 15, so there was still a strong possibility that Price is not ready to do it. start the season on time – although he and Ducharme hoped he would.

If Price stays on track with that initial screening, there’s still a possibility he’s ready to start the home opener against the New York Rangers on the 16th, which would certainly appeal to what is expected to be the first. crowd at full capacity at the Bell Center since March 2020.

Before that happens, the Canadiens need to play Buffalo the night after opening their season in Toronto, and that’s part of what made the acquisition of Samuel Montembeault (excluding the Florida Panthers waiver on Saturday) compelling. . The 24-year-old last played in the NHL a year and a half ago, but he will play against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, and the game – as well as every practice to come – will serve as the audition to see what happened. he can face the Sabers next week and serve as a replacement for Jake Allen for as long as needed thereafter.

We know the Canadiens are comfortable giving Allen plenty of starts this season, but they’re unlikely to want to burn him out with back-to-back starts and maybe three starts in four nights if Price isn’t. ready to leave for the opening of the house.

Cayden Primeau is an option. The former seventh-round pick in 2017 played very well in a 2-1 victory at the Bell Center on Saturday, and he has a bright future in the NHL.

But the feeling is that the Canadiens would rather bring Primeau to Laval soon to prepare him to start a lot of games with the Rocket this season.

It will depend on what Montembeault shows.

“He’s a young goalie we’ve always loved,” said Ducharme. “We love his potential, he’s only 24 years old. Obviously with the situation in net right now, I don’t think (pretending it was) a risk. It’s a good situation for him and for us because we can look well… ”

Montembeault, a native of Bécancour, Que., Who grew up being a Canadiens fan, is 9-8-3 with a .892 save percentage in 25 NHL games, and he believes it is. the opportunity for him to show that he can do better.

“It gives me a chance to really prove that I can play in this league and that they didn’t choose me for no reason and that I have my place here,” he said after training with Canadians for the first time on Monday.

If Montembeault can do it, it will allow Price to take all the time he needs before coming back.

Other injury updates

Ducharme said Mike Hoffman (lower body) is expected to resume skating at some point this week.

The 31-year-old, who signed a three-year, $ 13.5 million contract with the Canadiens this summer, was injured in his final training session before leaving for Montreal. The prognosis was that he could miss up to four weeks.

It remains doubtful that Hoffman will start the season on time, but it is a good sign that he is returning to the ice.

Joel Edmundson skated alone for most of the past week and a half, but was not on the ice on Monday. Ducharme had initially hoped Edmundson’s undisclosed injury would heal in time for him to join full training early last week, but that did not happen.

“For Eddy, it’s taking longer than expected,” Ducharme said on Monday. “It’s a bit stable. It doesn’t get much better, but not worse, so they look further to see if there is a reason for it. We will see more and know more in the coming days.

It will take at least a few days before Cédric Paquette resumes training. His lower body injury “is slowly improving,” according to Ducharme.

The coach had nothing else on Mattias Norlinder, who suffered a lower-body injury late last week. Ducharme said he was still awaiting the results of an MRI performed on Friday and added that Norlinder “is feeling better”.

Sami Niku, who signed a two-pronged contract with the Canadiens after agreeing with the Winnipeg Jets to mutually terminate their contract, is concussed and is unlikely to return for “a little while,” according to Duchame.

We didn’t ask the coach, but we checked the Canadiens on Shea Weber’s status. We know the captain won’t play this season with lingering injuries preventing him from doing so, but we wanted to know if the team had any clarification from the NHL as to whether or not they would be allowed to place him on the roster. reserve for long-term injuries.

While the Canadiens have yet to receive an official League message on this matter, they don’t care; they expect to be cleared to place Weber on the roster before the start of the season.

Cole Caufield’s return clarifies image up front

After missing a week with a shoulder injury suffered during the warm-up before the team’s Red-White scrum last Sunday, Caufield was back in training and back on a line with Tyler Toffoli and Nick Suzuki.

This moved Brendan Gallagher to one with Jake Evans and Joel Armia.

The second line of Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson remained intact while Mathieu Perreault centered Artturi Lehkonen and Alex Belzile.

When we asked Ducharme what Ryan Poehling should get out of skating on a supposed fifth row with Raphael Harvey-Pinard and Jess Ylonen, the coach said the battle for a spot on the list continues – and that Poehling will skate on which could be considered the third row for the game in Toronto on Tuesday.

New contract prepares Evans for a good start

It was a security Jake Evans couldn’t shy away from – a three-year, $ 5.1 million contract extension finalized with the Canadiens on Sunday – and it should make him feel ready to bring what he needs. this season.

Think about the route this player traveled to get to this point. He was drafted 207th overall in 2014, passed by each team several times before the Canadiens called his name in the seventh round. Evans then spent four seasons at Notre-Dame before spending most of his first two years as a professional at Laval.

It was formative years that saw Evans become the center of Montreal’s fourth line last season.

It was one thing to unlock this opportunity, but being able to approach it with the support and confidence of the organization should go a long way in ensuring that Evans is up to the task.

He said on Monday he was ready to bet on himself and keep going year after year until he can prove he deserves a longer commitment from the Canadians.

But when the 25-year-old was surprised with a three-year offer, he jumped on it.

“It was obvious to me,” said Evans. “I love this city, I love the fans, I love the teammates here, and I think there is something special growing here. For me it was a huge sigh of relief knowing that I can be here for a while.

It was also a good bet for the Canadiens.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi snatched by the Carolina Hurricanes via an offer has opened the door for Evans to take on more responsibility, and the team that is investing in the player to get by right now can only help him meet the demands. expectations and prove to be an excellent and valuable player for years to come.

Giving him Armia and Gallagher as teammates won’t hurt.

“We really believe in him,” Ducharme said. “I think he’s a little under the radar. Not that people don’t see he’s a good player – he helped end the season and the playoffs – but it could be a year where he can open his eyes and really make everyone understand. how good it can be.

That would have been the Toronto native’s ambition anyway.

But Evans had a good idea of ​​the change in mentality this new pact brings.

“I usually proved people wrong,” he said, “now I guess that proves people are right.”

Evans added that his approach to doing so won’t change, however.

“I don’t think I’ve proven much in the NHL,” he said. “I’m extremely happy where I am right now, but I want to continue and I want to prove to a lot of people that I can be a solid and top player in this league, and I just want to keep pushing myself. . “

There’s a feeling that Evans can deliver more offensively after scoring just five goals and 16 points in his first 60 NHL games before adding two goals and an assist in his first 13 playoff games, and Ducharme thinks he should be able to do it while facing off against some of the NHL’s top lines.

Again, Evans plays with strong teammates. And he’s also produced close to a point per game at Notre Dame and 83 points in 118 games with Laval, and that’s a pedigree to suggest he’s got it inside him to do more at that level.

Kaiden Guhle getting closer to his NHL debut

With Edmundson on the sidelines, the Canadiens saw Guhle better than they expected.

The 16th pick in the 2020 Draft is likely destined to go back to the WHL’s Price Albert Raiders, but not immediately. He reached the final stages of training camp with David Savard while Chris Wideman moved on to a twinning with Ben Chiarot and Alex Romanov continued to skate with Jeff Petry. season.

It will depend on how well the 19-year-old performs by then, and much of it will depend on Edmundson’s status.

But Ducharme did not consider the possibility of Guhle starting the season with the Canadiens.

“He is a youngster who is progressing well, whether in games or training,” said the coach. “He’s a smart player who adapts well …

“I think he’s skating well, and it’s a good experience for him and we’ll see where we are at the start of the season.”

About Raymond A. Bentley

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