Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price said Saturday the “lower body” injury he suffered in the NHL Eastern Conference final won’t need surgery.
Price’s playoffs ended in the second period of the series opener after New York Rangers forward Chris Krieder crashed into him while on a breakaway. He would only call it a lower body injury, although he was wearing a brace on his right knee in the days after the incident.
“Over time it’s going to get back to normal,” he said. “I actually got really lucky, it could have been a lot worse than it was.”
Price lay on the ice for a moment after the collision early in the second period of New York’s 7-2 victory, but finished the period. He was substituted by back-up Peter Budaj for the third.
No penalty was called on the play, although teammate Brandon Prust said Kreider’s crash was “accidental on purpose.”
“I don’t think he did it intentionally and I don’t think he tried to miss me either,” said Price. “He was coming in with a lot of speed and he lost his footing.
“There’s not much really to be said. I’m not going to go seeking revenge or anything like that. Hockey is a game of chance and unfortunately, I was unlucky in that situation.”
Budaj was beaten for three goals in his one period of action and coach Michel Therrien made the surprise decision to start third-stringer Dustin Tokarski for the rest of the series.
Tokarski, who had only played 10 NHL regular season games in his career and had no playoff experience, was solid in goal, going 2-3-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Price had been 8-4-1 with a 2.35 average and a .919 save percentage.
“That was probably one of the hardest situations you could ever throw a guy into and he really excelled,” Price said of Tokarski, a former rival in the junior Western Hockey League. “He showed why he’s won at different levels.
“He’s an awesome guy and I’ve got to tip my hat to him. He did an awesome job.”
It left Budaj out to dry. The Slovak has a year remaining on his contract but looks to have been bumped to third-string status. Price feels for him.
“It’s definitely a tough spot,” he said. “Peter’s one of the genuinely nicest human beings I’ve ever met.
“He’s an unbelievable backup. He’s one of the best friends I have on this team and he showed a lot of character. He never hung his head, never pouted and he showed the utmost support for everybody, including Dustin. It takes a special person to do that.”
Price was on an accelerated rehab program after the injury. Going from a five-minute skate to a half hour in pads and then practising with his teammates. He said he should have been able to play if the team reached the Stanley Cup final.
“I would have been pushing my luck to come back real quick, but obviously the time of year I would be trying to come back real soon,” he said.
“Obviously, in the playoffs you play through things, and that’s what I wanted to do. But there’s also the reality that no matter how bad you want to play and how bad you want to get in there, there’s also a question of how effective you are going to be. That was a decision that we had to make.”
He said the injury was not related to the one he suffered while backstopping Canada to gold at the Sochi Olympics in February. The 26-year-old plans to continue rehab in Montreal for a short spell and return home to British Columbia to heal and get ready for next season.