Habs' MVP set to join century club

Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price will be bidding to become the seventh-youngest goaltender to get to...

Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price will be bidding to become the seventh-youngest goaltender to get to the 100-win mark when he faces the Calgary Flames. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:07 AM ET

MONTREAL - There will be some blessed distraction Thursday from the incessant traffic woes in this city, a place where there are more pylons than on the Columbus Blue Jackets defence.

The two main bridges, the Mercier and the Champlain, are under constant construction as workers struggle to keep up with repairs, much like doctors with the knees of Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov.

As of right now, both are losing battles.

Markov wasn't around as the Canadiens prepared for their home opener Thursday night at the Bell Centre against the Calgary Flames. He was in Florida having his latest knee injury looked at by Dr. James Andrews. No date has been set for his return.

When your best defenceman is in Florida and you're not, that's not good gap control.

Despite their annual traffic jam at the trainer's room -- the Habs will be without five regulars against the Flames -- there's still a great buzz around the team and when you have Carey Price in net, there should be.

Price will be bidding to become the seventh-youngest goaltender to get to the 100-win mark when he faces the Flames. Iff there was a category for the goaltender who was most valuable to his team -- as opposed to just being the Hart or Vezina trophy winner -- Price might very well be that guy.

Last year's Vezina winner, Tim Thomas, was the best goalie in the league, but he has a strong and complete Boston Bruins team in front of him.

Ditto for Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks.

Pekke Rinne of the Nashville Predators would probably give Price the best run for his money as the goalie who means the most to his team.

Consider this: there were 25 games last season when Price held the opposition to one goal or less. The Habs won 24 of them.

That is filling the mandate of giving your team a chance to win, job one for any goaltender.

Now with Markov out, scorer Mike Cammalleri down for two weeks with a leg laceration, veteran defenceman Jaroslav Spacek out for maybe three weeks with sore ribs, defenceman Chris Campoli out until Christmas with a leg injury and gritty forward Ryan White still yet to hit the ice, the Canadiens will be counting on Price even more.

To think there was debate between keeping him or Jaroslav Halak after Halak's tremendous playoff run two years ago is almost laughable.

Price tied for the league lead in wins last season with 38, getting him well on the way to the century club.

"So far it's been a lot of fun. Hopefully I can get a couple of hundred more," Price said Wednesday.

He's come a long way since being a backup to Halak in the playoff run. Along with defenceman P.K. Subban, they give the Canadiens two of the best young players at their positions in the game and it's been a while since you could say that about the Habs.

Price is also growing into an important voice in the dressing room and the face of the franchise.

He's taking advantage of his star power.

He's going to wear pads with pink highlights and a mask to match Saturday night for Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month and will auction them off.

"A billion dollars would be awesome," said Price, with a laugh. "It's a good cause. Everybody in the world has been pretty much touched by cancer in some form, a relative or a friend, somebody always has somebody in mind when they think of the world cancer so anything we can do to help out is great."

Price, a native of Anahim, B.C., is also promoting his ancestry with a mask featuring a First Nations elder, a dreamcatcher and some nifty depictions of Canadiens logos in beadwork. Price's mother, Lynda, is the former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation.

"I live just off the reservation across the water. I go hang out on the reserve all the time so I figured this season that it would be a good idea to put that on the side of my helmet and show everybody my ancestry," said Price.

He said he hopes seeing the mask will serve as an inspiration to First Nation kids.

"I was given an opportunity and I took it," said Price. "For First Nations kids, all it takes is just an opportunity to get out and play a little bit. It doesn't matter where you are, if you're good enough and you work hard enough, somebody will find you. I think that's the biggest key to my story."

A story that looks like it's getting better and better.

YOUNGEST GOALIES TO GET 100 WINS

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has 99 wins in his NHL career. With a victory Thursday night against the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre, the 24-year-old will become the seventh-youngest goaltender to get to the 100-win mark.

Here are the youngest goaltenders to win 100 games in the NHL (source: Montreal Canadiens).

Player Team Season Age

1. Harry Lumley, Detroit Red Wings, 1947-48, 21

2. Tom Barrasso, Buffalo Sabres, 1986-87, 22

3. Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings, 1952-53, 22

4. Grant Fuhr, Edmonton Oilers, 1985-86, 23

5. Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, 1988-89, 23

6. Jocelyn Thibault, Chicago Blackhawks, 1996-97, 24

7. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2008-09, 24

8. Don Edwards, Buffalo Sabres, 1979-80, 24

9. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, 1996-97 24

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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