Will Montreal's Carey Price recover for Game 2?

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Down 1-0 in the conference final and looking for a Milan Lucic-type villain on which to focus their energy, the Canadiens will have to make do with Chris Kreider for now.

The New York Rangers winger would certainly fill the bill if his collision with MVP goalie Carey Price does result in the latter missing some or all of the series. But there is difference of opinion, even in the Montreal room, whether Kreider’s spikes-up contact that jammed Price’s right ankle into the post in Game 1 was intentional.

Price skated only five minutes on Sunday, taking no shots at the Canadiens’ suburban rink. But since it was an optional practice, which the busy Price usually skips anyway, coach Michel Therrien was able to stay vague on his netminder’s availability for Game 2 on Monday night.

Forward Brandon Prust led the conspiracy theorists among the Habs, calling Kreider’s action “accidentally on purpose”. Price allowed two goals after the incident, both on his right side, hastening his departure after two periods with the Habs trailing 4-1.

“He didn’t really try to avoid him,” said Prust, a former Ranger, who took some costly penalties pursuing Kreider as New York piled on power play goals in the 7-2 result. “We’re in the NHL. We know how to not put our skates first when we fall. He did the same thing against (Pittsburgh’s) Marc-Andre Fleury in the last series. He’s not doing anything to avoid him, so it’s not totally intentional, but he doesn’t do anything to lighten it up a bit.”

Replays showed the speedy Kreider, who is quite a handful at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, getting knocked slightly off balance by pursing Canadiens defencemen, then skidding into Price. Kreider attempted to shoot while on his knees, which could account for his skate blades being thrust out. He also injured Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson last year in a crease mash-up.

“I’ve reviewed the (Price) incident and obviously it was accidental contact,” Therrien said. “But let’s put it this way, he didn’t make much effort to avoid the contact.

“It’s happened in the past. I’m sure the intention is not to hit the goalie, but you have to try everything in your power to avoid contact. And it’s tough to say he avoided contact.”

While concerned about Price’s well-being, New York coach Alain Vigneault expected he would play Game 2, while the rest of the Rangers were naturally standing up for Kreider.

“Accidental all the way,” said defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “The guy skates with incredible speed, he’s got a little separation on the defenceman in a 2-0 game, the first in the Eastern Conference final. So he’s worried about one thing — putting the puck on the net. He knows guys are coming from behind him and sticks are flying everywhere. He’s going as fast as he can.”

At the same time, McDonagh conceded that the Canadiens “have to protect their goaltender … he’s an important part of their team, like Henrik Lundqvist is to us, the backbone.”

Prust was asked if what happened in Game 1 meant Lundqvist was now fair game if the Habs drove the net hard.

“We’re not going to go out and run their goalie just because they ran ours,” he said. “We’ve got to keep our cool. Obviously, I lost my cool a little bit, but it happens (trailing by so much). We’re putting that game behind us and are focused on doing all the right things, not taking dumb penalties, not looking for retaliation. You lose a lot of hockey games that way.”

No Price would mean backup Peter Budaj starts. His rough introduction to the series was a three-goal power-play onslaught in the third period while Prust was serving his long sentence. But this wasn’t a stellar year for Budaj (10-8-3, .909 save percentage). The Habs had a couple of farm team goalies with them and promoted American Hockey League all-star Dustin Tokarski to the main group on Sunday in case Price is out.

“I’m ready if I have to go,” Budaj said. “Hopefully, Price is all right. He’s our best player and we wouldn’t be here without him.”

As for Rangers forward Derick Brassard’s upper body injury from a Game 1 hit, Vigneault was less emphatic about his playing status than with Price’s, repeating he is day-to-day.


After playing just three games for the Canadiens since March 12, Peter Budaj found himself in the heat of the conference final on Saturday afternoon.

Asked to hold the fort with Carey Price hurt, Budaj was rocked for three Rangers power-play goals in three minutes, including a 5-on-3 score.

“That’s tough the way Peter got thrown in,” Habs forward Dale Weise said. “We wanted to battle for him and 5-on-3s are not the way we wanted to start. He’s there every day and he’s such a great teammate.”

Budaj shrugged it off.

“I did everything possible I could to be prepared to play at this time,” he said. “Hopefully, Carey is ready to go in tomorrow, but if I am in, I’m ready.”