By Heather Engel
Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, Carmen Sandiego’s whereabouts and the Caramilk secret have nothing on this around here.
No, in Montreal, the biggest mystery is the status of Canadiens goaltender Carey Price for Game 2 on Monday night.
Taken down in a crease collision with New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider in the second period of Game 1, Price didn’t participate in Montreal’s optional practice on Sunday. He did, however, briefly hit the ice with goalie coach Stéphane Waite an hour before practice.
“It was a therapy day (for Carey). We’ll see if he’s able to play tomorrow’s game,” head coach Michel Therrien said following his team’s short session on the ice.
Pressed further on the issue, Therrien maintained his stance.
“We’ll see. I can’t tell you that right now,” he said.
Price finished the second period despite appearing to hurt his right leg. He was replaced by back-up Peter Budaj to start the third, the Canadiens trailing 4-1 at that point. Therrien claimed the goaltending change had nothing to do with a potential injury to his starter but rather as a protective measure with the Canadiens not looking very sharp in front of him.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Price takes his option to forgo Monday’s morning skate, as he has regularly done on game-days this post-season. That would leave the pre-game warm-up as the earliest indication of whether or not he’ll play.
Canadiens left-winger Brandon Prust wasn’t too pleased with Kreider after the incident and made sure to let him know with a stick between the legs, a cross-check and a slash. Prust also picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a 10-minute misconduct.
“He went skates-first right into his leg,” Prust, a teammate of Kreider’s during the Rangers’ 2012 playoff run. “We know how to slide, we know how to fall. We’re in the NHL; we’re taught how to fall when we’re five years old and how to get back up.
“I don’t think he’s a dirty player but he did nothing to slow up or avoid him, at all.”
And it wasn’t the first incident of its type the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Kreider has been involved in this spring, he noted in reference to a collision with Marc-André Fleury in Game 6 of the Rangers’ series against the Penguins.
Therrien agreed that it didn’t appear to be intentional but that perhaps more effort could have been put in, in trying to avoid Price.
Not surprisingly, the Rangers saw things differently.
“I’ve never seen a hockey player that can score an important goal on a breakaway and would rather run into a goalie or figure out a way to hit a goalie. I mean, he’s trying to score a goal,” Brad Richards said. “If you’ve watched him, he’s a pretty fast, big player. When he gets going, it’s hard to stop sometimes.”
While Price’s status was as clear as mud on Sunday afternoon, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault didn’t plan on preparing any differently as his team aims to grab a 2-0 series lead.
“I’m sure Price is going to be there, so we’re getting ready for him,” he said.
One situation looking a little clearer for Montreal is the impending return of forward Alex Galchenyuk. Sidelined since suffering a knee injury on April 9 in Chicago, the 20-year-old was cleared for contact on Friday. Therrien confirmed that day he would get a shot in the lineup but noted they wanted to be sure “he’s in the best shape physically, mentally” for the playoffs.
“He’s doing really good (in his recovery),” said Therrien on Sunday.
So, could he return for Game 2?
“It’s always a possibility,” he said.