Price returns for Habs with huge pressure, little room for error

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For those who sit in the “this is what you signed up for” camp, you probably won’t feel a ton of sympathy for Carey Price tonight.

Whatever way you slice it, this is a high-pressure situation, though. Price has been sidelined with injury issues since Nov. 2, and the Montreal Canadiens’ playoff hopes continue to wobble, as they’re currently mired in a five-game losing streak.

Across the ice from Price will be a Buffalo Sabres team that’s become experts in frustration. They’re fighting through plenty of their own, and they’ve seen it in their opponents as well, with Friday’s 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers standing as a strong example.

Any team with high expectations and an 8-12-3 record is going to feel some heat, but the mercury really rises in a place like Montreal. That’s especially true when people are growing increasingly antsy about a “minor” injury that eventually cost Price weeks of play.

You could say things have gotten a little weird.

Even so, Price had to sit this time out. Something clearly wasn’t right, and one can speculate that health issues limited the big, talented goalie early in 2017-18.

Price, 30, began the year with an ugly 3-7-1 record and deeply troubling individual stats (3.77 GAA, .877 save percentage). The Canadiens themselves would probably admit off the record that they expect Price’s huge contract extension to look bad in the future, but it’s not great when things are so tense before his $10.5 million cap hit even kicks in.

The Habs are already in a deep hole, and Price won’t have a ton of time to shake off the rust. Plenty of eyes will be on him tonight and going forward.

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.