There he was, out on the ice, a walking, talking morale boost in goalie equipment.
It’s one thing for Carey Price to noodle around in a tracksuit, as he did on Monday, it’s another for him to turn up on the Montreal Canadiens’ practice ice in full gear and uniform to spend 30 or so minutes working with position coach Francois Allaire, and conditioning coach Pierre Allard.
In times like these – the Habs are facing elimination on Tuesday evening (8 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS) against the New York Rangers – every little bit of good news and motivation helps.
“Seeing him every day and talking to him, we know his timeline, we know we have to win for him to come back and that he will come back if we win, obviously seeing him put the pads on is maybe a little bit more, gets the boys going a little bit more than it would just seeing him on the (training) table,” said winger Max Pacioretty. “We know we have to win to get him going, and we want to do that for him.”
Lest anyone get too excited about the prospect of a miracle recovery for Price – the Olympic champion netminder has been out since the Rangers’ Chris Kreider crashed into his right leg in game one of the Eastern Conference final – coach Michel Therrien ruled him out of this round in categorical terms.
“He won’t be playing in this series . . . a process has been put in place for his return to play, but it’s not going to be happening in the coming days,” he said.
The Habs have used their goaltender’s absence as motivation in this round – win for Carey is a familiar cry – but nevertheless find themselves exactly where they didn’t want to be, down 1-3 to a tough opponent.
Therrien will surely bring a host of technical and game-planning adjustments to the table in game five – the Habs practiced breakouts at an optional pre-game practice – but he’s mostly emphasizing the frame of mind that will be required to extend the season.
“I expect us to play our best game. We just went through the same situation (two elimination games against Boston), exactly the same, and we were able to raise our level of play through preparation and the right attitude,” he said.
Throughout the playoffs, Therrien has been relaxed and jovial, emphasizing the need for his team to embrace that which might otherwise seem daunting.
This situation is a little more dire than the second round, however, and it showed in the demeanour of both coaches and players.
For one thing, the Habs don’t have Price to help them, for another, they trailed the Bruins 3-2 and though they beat a world-class goalie in two straight, getting through an elite netminder like Henrik Lundqvist in three consecutive games is a stern test.
But Therrien will doubtless be encouraged by the fact his team’s most dangerous scorer, Pacioretty, is bound and determined to atone for a sub-par showing in game four.
“I don’t feel good about my game last game, but that’s how it goes . . . good players find a way to overcome a bad game like that, and I’ve got to do that tonight,” said the 25-year-old winger.
It’s expected Therrien will go with an unchanged lineup from game four, Dustin Tokarski, who has given a very good account of himself as Price’s stand-in, will start in net.