Jumping into competition for Team Canada was like jumping into a boiling pot for Carey Price.
There was no time for the 29-year-old to settle back into the crease at the World Cup of Hockey following a near-10 month layoff from game competition. Canada, which started training camp just outside the nation’s capital on Monday morning, expects Price to be ready to go as their No. 1 when the two-week tournament gets underway in Toronto later this month.
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“If you’re here you have to be ready to play and you have to be ready to play from Day 1 and Carey was aware of that when he accepted the invitation,” said Canadian general manager Doug Armstrong following the team’s first practice.
“We’re very comfortable that Carey is ready and he’s very comfortable that he’s ready to go.”
Price missed almost all of last season for the Montreal Canadiens with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He last played in late November.
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The B.C. native was in upbeat spirits among his Canadian teammates at Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, if admittedly anxious to finally get back into game action.
Head coach Mike Babcock said no plan had yet been formalized for goaltending duties during the exhibition slate — that’s expected Wednesday — though Price said he expected to play a full game in his first action whenever that might be.
Canada gets going with the first of three pre-tournament games against the United States in Columbus on Friday.
Price, who allowed only three goals in helping his country to gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, couldn’t say how long it might take him to return to pre-injury form.
“Over 400 games in the NHL it shouldn’t take me too long to get back into it,” he said.
Canada won’t have long to wait given the hurried nature of the World Cup, which finishes only two weeks after it begins on Sept. 17. The squad is rich, too, with backup options in the event that Price struggles, boasting 2016 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby as well as two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford.
How much opportunity either gets in the three pre-tournament games is yet unclear, though Babcock has indicated that none of his goalies would play on back-to-back nights with the Canadians playing host to the Americans in Ottawa on Saturday.
Price was the top goalie in the NHL before he got hurt.
He posted two shutouts in winning nine of his first 11 starts for the Canadiens last fall (.932 save percentage), recapturing the form which earned him the 2015 Vezina Trophy in a landslide. Price garnered 27 of 30 first-place votes following a campaign of nine shutouts and a league-leading .933 save percentage.
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Montreal fell apart in his absence last season. The club finished 13th in the Eastern Conference with only 82 points — a distant 11 points back of a playoff spot — a far cry from the 110-point campaign of a year earlier with Price healthy.
Price still winces at the thought of sitting out while his team piled up losses.
“It’s definitely not a vacation that’s for sure,” he said. “Especially when your team is not doing well it’s tough to sit by the wayside and watch the struggle. You feel really helpless. Any guy who has been out for a long time would tell you that you’re a part of the team but you don’t really feel part of the team because you feel kind of useless.”
Price was back to par physically about a month after the regular season ended, though the mental frustration lingered. Once he returned to the ice in early August he regained a rhythm, building the confidence which has him feeling ready to go for Canada.
He said he hadn’t considered skipping the tournament.
“I’m just going to come back and just try and do all the things made me successful two years ago,” Price said. That’s all that I can control.”