MONTREAL — When it comes to playing again, Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price has a long way to go.
There are also some important steps along the way.
Sidelined by a lingering knee injury, the 35-year-old Price is on long-term injured reserve and there is no timetable for his return. Price said Monday that his focus has shifted to his day-to-day life rather than the potential end of his 15-year NHL run.
“We’ll have to take it one step at a time. I don’t have a plan to retire at this point,” he said. “Right now, my goal is to be pain-free on a day-to-day basis. I still have some trouble going up and down stairs, and carrying my kids up and down the stairs is difficult.
“So my first priority is just to get my body to a place where I don’t have pain in my daily life and go from there.”
Price helped Montreal reach the 2021 Stanley Cup Final — a surprising run that began with wins over two Canadian teams and then the Vegas Golden Knights — and then suffered multiple setbacks in his return to the game. He underwent knee surgery and sought help from the NHLPA/NHL player assistance program last year for substance abuse.
He won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in June, which is given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.
Price appeared in just five games last season as the Canadiens fell from their position as the Stanley Cup finalists. He then had second thoughts about his knee injury in Pittsburgh and another surgery was suggested.
The veteran goalkeeper said he “didn’t like” the idea and called the procedure “intrusive”.
“The surgery is called OATS,” Price said. “Basically, they’re taking a plug of cartilage and bone from an area lower in your knee and putting it in the damaged area of cartilage. It’s very serious and the success rate is over 50%, and from a pessimistic point of view it’s like “Well, there’s a 50% chance it can’t work or a 30% chance or whatever.”
“It’s something, if I didn’t have an urgent need to spend my life, that I would probably consider at the time, but now I’m looking at my young children and playing with them every day is the best thing. important thing for me”.
For now, Price is continuing to rehabilitate the injury — a long and tedious process that has so far been unsuccessful.
“That’s been the real frustrating part, but I’ve talked to some people who have had this type of injury and it took them over a year to start feeling normal,” Price said. “So I’m still hoping. There’s a possibility of another injection, but we’ll have to see. We just have to keep trying to sort out a problem, but that surgery is a little worrying for me.”
There are no more spaces with Price’s name in the Canadiens locker room at the Bell Centre. It’s a significant change for Montreal veterans like Brendan Gallagher, who lived through the highs and lows of the team’s recent history alongside Price.
“It’s different to look down and not have him here. He was really the center (point) of this team, this organization for so many years,” Gallagher said. “It’s different, but I’m lucky to have had the years I’ve had with him, and he’s made me look good on a lot of nights. I’d never say that to his face, but I owe him a thing or two. “
Price thinks he’s in a “grey area” when it comes to being part of the team. He was introduced to a standing ovation at the Bell Center as a non-playing Canadien during the Oct. 12 season opener. The fifth overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft said he’s still trying to find a balance between sticking with the team as an injured player and respecting his teammates’ space.
“Any injured guy will tell you it’s a weird position to be in,” Price said. “You feel like you’re part of the team, but you don’t feel like you’re part of the team.
“I don’t want to be out there every day and use the resources every day. These guys come here and work hard every day. They see coaches every day and I don’t want to hinder their progress. I’m not going to be a part of that process here this season, so I feel like I’m on the road. I’ll be around, I miss being with the guys.”
Montreal is 3-3 and has allowed 18 goals this season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.