Red Wings-Canadiens Preview
After guiding Canada to the gold medal at the Olympics, coach Mike Babcock now will focus on helping the Detroit Red Wings secure a playoff spot without their injured captain.
Babcock might be happy that one of the key members of his team from Sochi also won't be on the ice Wednesday night, with the Montreal Canadiens announcing earlier in the day that Carey Price will not be in net for this home game against the Red Wings.
Price left practice Wednesday due to a lower-body injury he aggravated while backstopping Canada to gold, according to coach Michel Therrien. Peter Budaj will start Wednesday in place of Price, who will also miss Friday's visit to Pittsburgh, and Dustin Tokarski has been called up from the AHL to serve as backup.
With help from Price - named the tournament's top goaltender - Babcock led Canada to its second straight gold medal with a roster of All-Stars that went unbeaten in six games at the Olympics, finishing its run with Sunday's 3-0 win over Sweden.
One noticeable absence from the Swedish team was that of Red Wings leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg, who played one game in Sochi before suffering another back injury. He had surgery Friday in New York to remove a fragmented disk and may not play for the rest of the regular season.
Zetterberg, who also missed 11 games in December because of a herniated disc, has team highs of 16 goals and 32 assists.
"I don't anticipate he'll be ready to play in any games of the regular season," general manager Ken Holland said. "I'm hopeful that we can play our way into the playoffs and that he'll be back, but that's down the road."
Detroit (26-20-12) is clinging to the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot by one point, and it will be in for a fight to extend its run of playoff appearances to 23 consecutive seasons.
The Red Wings went 3-1-1 in their last five before the break but fell 4-2 to Tampa Bay on Feb. 8 in their last game. Jimmy Howard, who was Team USA's third goaltender in Sochi but didn't play, made 24 saves. Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Jurco, who were in the Olympics with Sweden and the Czech Republic, respectively, each scored.
"It's going to be a tight race just like last year to end, and we need all the bodies we can get," said defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, also Zetterberg's teammate with the Swedes. "Hank has been our best player all year."
Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist had a goal and an assist apiece as Detroit beat Montreal 4-1 on Jan. 24 in the first meeting this season. Price wasn't at his best in that contest, but Babcock saw in Sochi just how good he can be.
Price went 5-0 with a 0.59 goals-against average for Team Canada, making 31 saves in a 1-0 win over the United States in the semifinals and 24 in the gold-medal game. He was named the tournament's top goaltender.
"Obviously it was a pretty cool life experience," Price told the team's official website. "That team was the hardest working team I've ever seen."
Montreal (32-21-6), tied with Toronto for the Atlantic Division's third and final guaranteed playoff spot, went into the Olympic break on a three-game winning streak. Price made 31 saves to help beat Carolina 4-1 on Feb. 8 and went 4-1-1 with a 1.16 GAA in his last six starts.
Budaj was playing well before the break, posting a 1.05 GAA in his last three appearances, but hasn't played since a 4-1 win over Boston on Jan. 30. He hasn't faced Detroit since a win Jan. 10, 2011.