The Canadiens held an optional morning skate in Brossard before facing the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final Monday night at the Bell Centre (8 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
Among the players skipping the skate was Carey Price and coach Michel Therrien announced to the media after the skate that the goaltender would miss the rest of the series against the Rangers.
“Carey Price won’t be able to play, not only for tonight but for the rest of the series,” Therrien told reporters in Brossard. “Really disappointed. He’s our best player.”
Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports tweeted after 5 p.m. that Dustin Tokarski will get the start for the Canadiens in Game 2.
Price was pulled after the second period of Game 1 with the Canadiens losing 4-1. Price was shaken up early in the second period of the 7-2 loss when the Rangers’ Chris Kreider plowed into him in the crease and the goalie skipped the Canadiens’ practice on Sunday.
After Sunday’s practice, Therrien said: “I reviewed the incident, and obviously it was an accidental contact. Put it this way, (he) didn’t make much effort to avoid the contact.”
Therrien changed his tune following Monday’s morning skate with news that Price was done for the series.
“Looking at the incident, it’s a reckless play,” Therrien said after the morning skate. “That’s the truth. And Kreider, that’s not the first time he’s going at goalies. So we end up losing our best player, but our group faced a lot of adversity throughout the course of the season. We have the attitude to respond really well and that’s what I’m expecting, starting tonight.”
Therrien wouldn’t say who his starting goalie will be for Game 2 between Peter Budaj and Tokarski. Forward Alex Galchenyuk, who has yet to play in the postseason because of a knee injury, will also be a game-time decision.
“You’ll know my lineup for Game 2 only tonight,” Therrien said.
Therrien was asked how his club can overcome the adversity of losing Price for the series.
“Well, you know what? One thing that we always preach with our team is being good teammates, and we’ve got a chance tonight again to give Carey Price a chance to get back in the playoffs, so to be able to do that, we’re going to have to be at our best because we’re playing against some world (class) hockey players. We play against a good hockey team, and we’ll need to be at our best to give Price a chance to come back in the playoffs.”
Therrien said he wasn’t sure if Price would be ready to return if the Canadiens advance to the Stanley Cup final.
“I know our team’s got a lot of character,” Therrien said. “That is the No. 1 reason why we’re here. We were capable to prove it in the past, and again, we’ve got that challenge to show again that we’ve got tons of character and we’re saying that Carey’s not able to play in this series. We want to go further. We hope that he’s going to be ready if we can.”
Other players who skipped the morning skate Monday were Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty.
You can listen to Therrien’s morning press conference by clicking here.
When Rangers coach Alain Vigneault met with the media Monday, he was asked for his reaction to Price being out for the rest of the series.
“It doesn’t really change anything for us,” Vigneault said. “We’re trying to get ready for our game. Prior to the series, we had prepared for three possible goaltenders, obviously, spending more time on Price. It’s very unfortunate what happened to him. But for us, it’s business as usual.”
Vigneault was also asked if he thought Kreider would be targeted by the Canadiens in Game 2.
“I can’t speak for how they’re going to react,” he said. “I can just tell you how we’re going to play. Kreider is a good player, an honest player like the rest of our team. We play a straight-forward game, whistle to whistle and that’s not going to change tonight.”
Vigneault wouldn’t say if Derick Brassard, who left Game 1 with what appeared to be a back injury, would be ready for Game 2, saying the forward is “day-to-day.”
“And as far as lineup decisions, I haven’t finalized that,” Vigneault added. “It’s like any other game, you’ll find out tonight at 8 o’clock when the puck drops.”
Kreider denied Monday that he was trying to run Price and said he had only one regret about the play.
“I wish I would’ve put it in the net,” he told reporters. “Obviously, I was trying to score a goal. I put it wide. It was a bang-bang play.”
He added: “I’m going to play my game, play hard, and try to get to the net. I’m here to play my game and play hard, and I think I’m a clean player. I don’t go out with the intent to hurt anyone ever, so I’m going to continue to try and get to the net and score goals.”
(Photo by John Kenney/The Gazette)
(Video by The Gazette’s Brenda Branswell)