Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher, each out since April, will play a game in the American Hockey League before the Montreal Canadiens face the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Price and Gallagher will play Monday for Laval, the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, on a conditioning loan against the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs’ affiliate. Price will play half the game, the Canadiens said.
Price missed 19 of Montreal’s final 21 regular-season games because of injuries, including the last 13 with a concussion, and Gallagher missed the final 21 with a broken thumb.
Price is expected to start Game 1 at Toronto. The goalie said Sunday that he is feeling healthy and is optimistic about Montreal beginning the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a clean slate.
“It’s a golden opportunity, we’re all excited to play,” Price said. “I know for myself it’s an exciting opportunity to play in the playoffs again for a second straight year, so we’re looking forward to getting into that first game and trying to build some momentum.”
Price sustained a concussion in a collision with Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson on April 19, his second start after missing six games with a lower-body injury. He said he had bad symptoms the next two days, including a headache.
“It wasn’t a pleasant time, so I’m thankful to be feeling better now,” Price said.
Price was 12-7-5 with a 2.64 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games this season. His save percentage was the second-lowest of his 14-season NHL career; he had a .900 save percentage in 49 games (48 starts) in 2017-18.
During the playoffs last season, Price had a 1.78 GAA, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games. He helped the Canadiens defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers before they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round.
“He’s calm, he’s in control and he’s a competitor,” Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme said. “The guys know he’s going to rise at the right time and he’s going to be at his best, so that’s why he has that impact on the team.”
Gallagher is expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Maple Leafs, as is defenseman Shea Weber, who missed the final eight games with an upper-body injury.
Gallagher was injured April 5 against the Oilers when he was struck by teammate Alexander Romanov‘s shot. He said Saturday that he doesn’t expect it will be difficult to get reacclimated with regular linemates Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar.
“It doesn’t take long for us,” Gallagher said. “We spend enough time together so there should be no rustiness. I think everyone’s feeling pretty good and hopefully we get back to doing what we do.”
Danault said Sunday that he’s recovered from a concussion that kept him out of the lineup for the final three regular-season games. He also said he expects Price to be his normal self.
“Carey’s the same, he’s always going to be the same,” Danault said. “He’s battling hard in practice. We all know he fought through a big injury this year. Obviously, he’s played a lot of games in the past. He’s our top goalie. It’s normal, sometimes you get hurt during the year. Jake [Allen] was huge for us this year, but [Price is] 100 percent from what I see. And he worked really hard to get back to 100 percent, so it’s good to see that.”
Danault, Gallagher and Tatar will be tasked with defending Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. Matthews led the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games. Marner was fourth in the NHL with 67 points (20 goals, 47 assists) in 55 games.
“Marner and Matthews are two elite players, two superstars,” Danault said. “It’s normal that they get points in almost every game, a bit like [Connor] McDavid and [Leon] Draisaitl (of the Oilers). They’re like a two-headed monster too. They’re players who go everywhere. They go to the right places to score. They’re tough to contain and it’s very rewarding when you do. They’re excellent players and it’s tough every time you face them.”
Price laughed when asked if he had learned anything about how to read Matthews’ shot.
“I wouldn’t tell you if I did, but he’s definitely got a deceptive release and you just have to react to it, try to read it as best as possible,” Price said. “There’s no secrets to it. We know he’s got a world-class shot and we need to try to take that opportunity away from him as much as possible.”