Carey Price returns for Canada's World Cup tune-up
Canadiens' starter missed nearly all of last NHL season with knee injury
Carey Price will play his first game in 289 days when he starts Canada's World Cup of Hockey exhibition opener on Friday against the United States.
The Montreal Canadiens goalie last played competitively on Nov. 25 when he injured his right knee against the New York Rangers. Price missed the rest of the season with what was later diagnosed as a sprained medial collateral ligament.
"I don't have any question marks about my health or my body or anything," Price said Wednesday after Canada's third day of training camp. "I've tested absolutely everything to the limit and I did everything correctly so I have absolutely no worries about anything."
He added: "I'm going to have to play well to stay in there and I know that."
Canada and the U.S. will renew their rivalry in Columbus before the teams face off again Saturday in Ottawa. Goalies Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are tabbed to split that pre-tournament game.
Head coach Mike Babcock said no decision had been made on who will start the exhibition finale on Sept. 14 in Pittsburgh, seemingly leaving his options open in the event that Price struggles.
Team Canada would obviously prefer that Price claim the role. He was declared the team's intended No. 1 when the first 16 players were announced in early March.
The only question that has lingered is how long it might take the 29-year-old Anahim Lake, B.C., native to regain the tremendous form which won him the 2015 Vezina Trophy and had him rolling again (10-2-0, .934 save percentage) before his injury last season.
Price not concerned
Price, for one, didn't seem too concerned.
Just about every goaltender was facing some kind of layoff from last season, he said, whether from the end of the regular season in April or the last Stanley Cup final game in mid-June. His teammates, for that matter, were in awe at his form at camp.
"You look at a guy like Carey and it looks like he hasn't missed a step, it's pretty easy for him," Holtby said.
Holtby, who will start on Saturday, was wary of the minimal preparation time ahead of the Sept. 17-Oct. 1 tournament. His last game action came in early May, about four months from his exhibition debut.
"For me, it usually takes the full pre-season at least until I feel comfortable in the net at all," he said. "So this is a little different for me. It's going to put me out of my comfort zone if I end up playing or not. I don't easily get into it as other guys do, I've got to shake off the rust."
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner wondered what the goaltending would be like at the World Cup given the long layoffs and limited pre-tournament playing time.
"You can practise all you want, but it's not a game," Holtby said. "You let one in in practice it's whatever, but you let one in a game it's a big deal. It takes a while to get back into it so it'll be interesting to see how the tournament unfolds."
Price's last international action for Canada was a 24-save shutout in the gold-medal game of the 2014 Olympics.