Habs not in panic mode over Price, but will start Niemi against Ve­gas

Montreal Gazette - - SPORTS - Scowan@post­media.com twit­ter.com/ StuCowan1 STU COWAN

Af­ter Carey Price al­lowed six goals on 31 shots in Thurs­day’s 6-5 over­time loss to the Buf­falo Sabres at the Bell Cen­tre, Cana­di­ens head coach Claude Julien was asked what he could do to help the strug­gling goalie.

“I think if any­thing he needs to feel that we’ve got his back — and we do,” Julien said. “We know how good he can be. At the same time, you do the things you have to do. You have a goalie coach that’s go­ing to work with him and he needs to know that his coach and his coach­ing staff are be­hind him and be­lieve in him, and there’s no rea­son not to with what he’s ac­com­plished. Again, we move on.”

Af­ter Fri­day’s prac­tice in Brossard, Julien an­nounced the Cana­di­ens will move on against the Ve­gas Golden Knights Satur­day at the Bell Cen­tre (7 p.m., SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Ra­dio) with­out Price in goal. Backup Antti Niemi will get the start, play­ing for the fifth time in the Cana­di­ens’ first 17 games as for­mer Cana­di­ens cap­tain Max Pa­cioretty re­turns to the Bell Cen­tre for the first time as a mem­ber of the Golden Knights.

“The big­gest thing is you sleep on those things,” Julien said Fri­day about his de­ci­sion to start Niemi in­stead of Price Satur­day night.

“As a coach­ing staff, Steph (Waite, the goalie coach) ob­vi­ously has some weight in there,” Julien added. “But even the rest of the coaches, we talk and felt what was bet­ter for the team, what was bet­ter for Carey and what was bet­ter in this spe­cific sit­u­a­tion. I think Carey can take a step back and then re­ally re­gain his con­fi­dence and his fo­cus … ev­ery­thing that needs to be done for him to be as good as we know he can be. So we’re go­ing to go with Niemi to­mor­row and then we’ll move on from there.”

Price, who is in the first sea­son of an eight-year, US$84-mil­lion con­tract, has a 5-4-3 record with a 3.07 goals-against aver­age and an .892 save per­cent­age. Com­ing off the worst sea­son of his NHL ca­reer, Price has al­lowed at least four goals in each of his last four games. Since stop­ping 33 shots in a 3-0 win over the Bru­ins on Oct. 27 in Bos­ton — his first shutout since last Nov. 25 — Price has a 1-3-1 record with an .854 save per­cent­age.

Some­thing is not right with the Cana­di­ens goalie — who is earn­ing $15 mil­lion this sea­son — and that’s a big prob­lem for this team.

Af­ter Thurs­day’s game, Price said: “Let’s just cut to the chase, re­ally. I just didn’t play very good tonight.”

He added: “It’s all up­stairs … I’ve got to fig­ure it out.”

Price has an 0-2-1 record since switch­ing to new red pads and af­ter prac­tice Fri­day he was work­ing on a pair of white ones in the Cana­di­ens’ locker-room be­fore speak­ing with the me­dia.

“I’m mess­ing around with some stuff,” Price said about his equip­ment. “But ... it’s all about be­ing strong up­stairs, like I said last night. Get­ting my men­tal game in or­der, be­cause I feel like my tech­ni­cal as­pect of the game is al­ways pretty sound. I’m not in any panic mode. I’m just go­ing to try and work it out. We’ve got a great team here that’s go­ing to sup­port me through it and we’ll get out of it right away.”

When asked af­ter prac­tice if he was go­ing to play Satur­day night, Price said: “We’ll see.”

A short while later when Julien met with the me­dia, he con­firmed Price would not play.

Niemi has a 3-1 record this sea­son with a 3.13 goals-against aver­age and an .893 save per­cent­age.

PIERRE OBENDRaUF

Cana­di­ens goal­tender Carey Price did not have a good out­ing Thurs­day against the Buf­falo Sabres, giv­ing up six goals in an over­time loss at the Bell Cen­tre. Price will not start Satur­day’s game.

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