Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is "pretty confident" he will play at least one of the team's final 18 regular-season games as he continues his recovery from a three-month absence with a lower-body injury.
Price addressed the media Thursday afternoon, shortly after taking shots from Canadiens forward David Desharnais in full equipment for the first time since aggravating a lower-body injury during a Nov. 25 game against the Rangers in New York. He was initially hurt Oct. 29 in Edmonton.
"I don't know when I'll be back at practice. I'm just continuing the process … and slowly progressing," Price told reporters at the Habs' practice facility in Brossard, Que. "The last couple of weeks I feel I've turned the corner … and me skating in full equipment shows that.
'I want to get out there as quickly as possible. It's not a matter of [the team] protecting me.' - Canadiens goalie Carey Price on his progress from a lower-body injury
'I feel really good on the ice, especially in the last week, since I started skating in equipment and started to push my limits."
The 28-year-old added he felt "great' after the workout with Desharnais and noted it has not been his goal not to return this season.
"I want to get out there as quickly as possible," said Price, adding he hasn't experienced a setback in his long recovery or been pressured by the Canadiens to return. "It's not a matter of [the team] protecting me."
Price disputed talk that his first injury this season led to the likelihood of the second.
"If you look at the tape," he said, "that could have happened to me if I was 100 per cent healthy."
World Cup of Hockey-bound?
Price also discussed being named Wednesday to Team Canada's 16-man preliminary roster for the World Cup of Hockey in September at Toronto. He was named along with the Washington Capitals' Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Obviously I wanted to be named to the team and have the opportunity to represent my country," said Price, who posted a 5-0 record, 0.59 goals-against average and .972 save percentage at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in leading Canada to a gold medal.
"It's going to be a fun tournament."
Should Price not suit up for a game in the next five weeks, he said it wouldn't impact his preparation for the World Cup of Hockey.
The NHL's reigning MVP and top netminder had been skating in a track suit in recent weeks and there had been talk the Canadiens might shut down Price for the balance of the season.
He has played in only 12 of Montreal's 64 games this season, compiling a 10-2-0 record with two shutouts, 2.06 GAA and .934 save percentage.
After a 19-4-3 start to the season, the 30-28-6 Canadiens are six points back of Pittsburgh for the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the Penguins have two games in hand.
"It's no secret we weren't scoring goals [earlier in the season]. It's a big part of the game now," said Price, whose wife Angela is expecting their first child on April 29. "You look at a team like Washington that's scored the most in the league [3.25 goals per game] and they're first [place] in the league. All the games I was watching it just seemed we weren't quite connecting.
"Since the start of the season, when we started strong, everybody's always gunning for us, so the competition is high. Winning's tough in this league and we couldn't find a way to do it most nights."