'Tender paying the Price

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

The Montreal Canadiens dressing room was essentially empty, save for Carey Price.

Having just come off the ice after putting in extra practise time after the morning skate, Price -- who served as a backup to Jaroslav Halak last night against the Flames -- was happily taking his time and enjoying a hint of solitude.

It was a chance for the 21-year-old from Anahim Lake, B.C. (located 320 km west of Williams Lake), to relax away from the craziness that regularly surrounds him when the room is open to the media.

And a chance to enjoy that "good-to-be-back" feeling.

"It's home. There's nothing like home," he said. "It's good to come back and play in front of family and friends."

Getting that chance to play in front of family and friends didn't pan out last night, but rest assured the Habs will return to their struggling star at some point during their six-game road swing.

Maybe a trip out west --especially with stops in Calgary and Vancouver -- will help him turn things around.

Price spends a couple of months in Calgary in the summers, living and training with cousin Keaton Ellerby, a first-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2007, and working with coach Eli Wilson.

Vancouver is closest to his hometown, so rest assured he'll receive some support, which would come at a good time.

Between now and his next start, though, Price will continue to try putting his game back in order, an odd situation considering how much success he's had.

Price, whose career rocketed since being chosen fifth overall in the 2005 draft, is facing his first bit of adversity since last year's playoffs.

An ankle injury -- an ailment as hard for a goaltender to play through as a groin problem -- shelved him for eight games in January.

He returned before the month was out, just in time to start for the Eastern Conference at the all-star game in Montreal, but it's been a tough go.

In eight starts between the pipes for the storied franchise, Price has lost six games and surrendered three or more goals six times. In that spell, he has a 3.63 goals-against average and .877 save percentage.

Could the ankle issue be lingering?

"Injuries are always hard to come back from and this one is no different," he said. "I've been back long enough I should be able to get back into it."

As successful as Price has been -- he was named the top goalie in both the WHL and CHL in his final season of junior, 2006-07, and backstopped the Hamilton Bulldogs to the AHL crown and won the playoff MVP that same season as well as named tournament MVP and top goalie at the 2007 world junior tournament -- he's under a lot of fire in Montreal these days.

Especially from himself. In the aftermath of Saturday's 5-2 loss to Toronto, Price looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. While Flames fans are used to seeing Miikka Kiprusoff's stoic reaction in good times and bad, Price isn't afraid to show his disappointment, especially when it's with himself.

"I'm going to demand a lot of myself when I have to. It's just the way I am," he said.


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