Meet the goalie who will replace Carey Price in the season opener
Veteran backup Al Montoya thrust into starting role
With Carey Price out with the flu, the spotlight is on Al Montoya, who was signed over the summer to solidify the backup goaltending position.
Montoya will be in nets when the Montreal Canadiens start the season tonight against the Sabres in Buffalo.
"I'm excited for this opportunity, just like the rest of the guys here," Montoya said after practice on Wednesday.
After last year's debacle, Montoya was brought in for exactly this type of situation.
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Montoya, a 31-year-old Chicago native, is a seasoned NHL backup who is coming off a strong showing behind Roberto Luongo with the Florida Panthers.
Last season, he went 12-7-2 with a 2.18 goals-against average.
Montoya said he isn't fazed, even if the last time he started on opening night was in 2011, when he was with the New York Islanders.
"The start was going to come sooner or later, and it's here now. This is what I've been preparing for," he said.
Price, one of the stars who led Team Canada to the World Cup of Hockey title in September, was off injured most of last season — and the team ended up missing the playoffs.
The 2015 Hart and Vezina winner sustained a knee injury in Edmonton after winning his first seven games. He returned after missing nine games but suffered a major setback on Nov. 25, when he hurt his MCL against the Rangers.
Price missed nearly 60 games, leaving the goaltending duties in the hands of Mike Condon, along with Dustin Tokarski and Ben Scrivens.
All three are no longer with the team, with Condon claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
Montoya was drafted sixth overall in 2004 by the New York Rangers. While he never established himself as a starter in stints with Phoenix, the New York Islanders, Winnipeg and Florida, he has earned a reputation as a solid backup.
The Canadiens clearly wanted to avoid a repeat of last season should Price be injured again.
"Obviously, we like Montoya's experience,'' coach Michel Therrien said back in September.
with files from Canadian Press