Reigning NHL most valuable player Carey Price will be sidelined for at least six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens said Monday.

The star goalie, who has been dealing with an unspecified nagging injury for weeks, will not require surgery, the team said.

Montreal said last Thursday that Price would miss at least a week after he left the previous night's game against the New York Rangers because he had aggravated a lower-body injury.

The injury was the same one that caused Price to miss nine games earlier in the season, coach Michel Therrien said at the time.

General manager Marc Bergevin on Monday dismissed the possibility that Price returned too quickly, saying team doctors and trainers felt Price was healthy enough to play.

"It was not because he came back too quick that he got injured, but I understand the question," said Bergevin. "You always wonder if that was the case, but we looked into it really deeply and that was not the case."

'Everyone has to pull up their socks'

Price won the Hart Trophy last season as the NHL's most valuable player and also claimed the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie.

This season Price, 28, has a 10-2-0 record with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.06 and a save percentage of .934 for a Montreal team that boasts the NHL's best record at 18-4-3.

The projected six-week absence means that Price is likely to miss the outdoor Winter Classic game against the Boston Bruins on New Year's Day at Gillette Stadium.

"He's a big part of our team," said defenceman P.K. Subban. "But if we think we're going to get any sympathy from the teams we're going to play in the next six weeks, we're not.

"The good thing is we've had to deal with not having Price in the lineup for a little while already and we know what that means. When a key part of your team goes down, everyone has to pull up their socks and be a little better."

Backup Mike Condon has performed solidly this season, going 8-2-3 with a 2.19 GAA and .916 save percentage.

"I'm a lot more comfortable," said Condon, 25. "I've had 14 appearances so far, so every time you go out there it gets a little more familiar and easier."

Following practice Monday afternoon in Brossard, the Canadiens announced they had recalled goaltender Zachary Fucale from the St. John's IceCaps, while Dustin Tokarski has been reassigned to the Habs' AHL affiliate.

In 12 outings this season with St. John's, Fucale has a 7-2-1 record with a goals against average of 3.12 and a save percentage of .907. Fucale, who is in his first season of professional hockey in the AHL, earns his first call up to the NHL.

Tokarski has not seen action since being recalled by the Canadiens on November 26. He last made an appearance in relief of Mike Condon on November 14, allowing two goals on 13 shots.

With files from The Canadian Press