The Price is right ... now

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

His spring ended in controversy.

His summer quiet and calming.

But Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is under fire again -- facing a flurry of pucks over the first two games of the season.

Stopping all but four of the 81 shots that have come his way in two overtime victories for the Habs, Price is feeling nothing but love from the same fans that gave him such a hard time during a first-round sweep out of the playoffs a few months ago.

He responded then with his best Patrick Roy imitation -- throwing his arms up just like the Habs legend did in 1995 before demanding a trade -- to let the Bell Centre crowd know they weren't helping.

Not much has changed except the results, Price said, when asked about the turnaround in perception.

"I'm playing the exact same way I did last year," said the 22-year-old. "When things go right, people talk about it. When things go bad, people talk about that. It's just the way it's been going so far."

But teammate Josh Gorges admits Price is different this year.

His play is just as stellar as it was a season ago as he helped the Habs win 23 games while posting a .905 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average.

It's his attitude that has changed slightly.

"You can see the maturity. You can see him developing and growing, learning how to handle certain situations," said Gorges, part of a banged-up defensive unit that has lost starters Andrei Markov and Ryan O'Byrne in consecutive games.

"Obviously there's a lot of pressure on (Price) to perform. To be at his best. And there's always going to be. I think learning how to deal with that, how to cope with it ... to keep the emotions intact is the biggest thing.

"Sometimes it's tough -- you don't have a good night and the fans are on you. He's a little more calm, cool and collected this year. I think, especially as a goalie, you have to have that."

Confidence in their netminder has allowed the blueline brigade to be self-assured even after losing a pair of solid defenders so early in the season.

"Absolutely. To know you've got a guy like that behind you, backing you up, it gives you confidence as a player," said Gorges. "Especially as a defenceman."

Spending much of the summer months at home in B.C., Price got a chance to purge from his mind thoughts of last season's disappointing ending at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

He had a meeting with new head coach Jacques Martin right here in Calgary during a goaltending camp Price was taking part in along with guys like Ray Emery, Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbara, and has come back strong.

"I didn't really put much thought into last year," Price said. "Just focused on this year, trying to get off to a good start."

It's worked so far.

And if he has any concerns about the defensive group in front of him, he hides it well.

"We've put a lot of emphasis on our defensive play. We've done a really good job of protecting our house," he said.

"Other teams are getting a few shots, but they're all from the outside, so it makes my job easier."

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WHO TO WATCH

Keep your eyes on these two players in tonight's game

JAY BOUWMEESTER, DEFENCE

If you missed his first regular-season game at the Dome last week -- and couldn't watch Saturday's outing in Edmonton -- you missed the big blueliner racking up nearly 30 minutes a night and picking up the puck in his end and moving it up ice quickly.

MICHAEL CAMMALLERI, LW

Scoring 39 goals in his first and only campaign as a Flame last year, the Richmond Hill, Ont. product cashed in this summer with a deal worth $6 million a season. He's off to a decent start as a setup man with the Habs, earning a pair of assists.


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