Should Canadiens let Carey Price play again this season?

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On Monday night, Carey Price made his return to the Canadiens lineup after he missed 13 games with a concussion. Price didn’t play in last night’s game against the Panthers, but the fact that he dressed as the backup means it’s just a matter of time before he ends up back between the pipes.

Under normal circumstances, this would be great news for the Habs, but most fans don’t want to see him suit up again this season. With nine games to go and the team way out of playoff contention, some don’t understand why Montreal would risk playing him in meaningless games.

It’s important to remember that Price has had his share on injuries over the last few seasons. Still, that won’t stop Claude Julien from using his franchise goaltender down the stretch.

“I don’t think that’s the right approach or the right example to set for players,” Julien said of shutting Price down for the season.

“He’s healthy, he wants to play. He’s not coming back at 90 percent, he’s 100 percent healthy right now. You can’t hold a player back, especially a player like Carey, and tell him you’ll miss the next 10 games. I don’t think that’s the right message to send.”

Shutting Price down for the rest of the season certainly makes sense in theory. His eight-year, $84 million extension kicks in at the start of next season and the Canadiens don’t have anything to gain by letting him play this year. On the flip side, it’s easy to understand why Price would want to play.

First, he’s a competitor. Most athletes would prefer to play if they’re fully healthy. They clearly don’t approach these situations the same way fans do. They’re professionals, they want to win and sitting on the sidelines as a precaution is unnatural to them.

Second, he may not want to go an entire offseason wondering how his head will respond to a live game. If he comes back, plays a couple of games, stays healthy and plays well, there will be nothing to wonder about over the summer months.

Third, like his team, he’s had a pretty bad year. He owns a 15-22-6 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .904 save percentage. Some of that is on the play of the players in front of him, but don’t get it twisted, he’s been mediocre, too.

The Risk

So, we’ve gone through the reasons why he should play. Now, we’ll look at the obvious risk of allowing him to see game action.

Anytime any NHL player steps on the ice, there’s a risk that he could get injured. For Price, those concerns have to be magnified. The 30-year-old is just two years removed from a knee injury that cost him several months and he’s been sidelined on two different occasions this season (10 games for a lower-body injury, 13 games with a concussion).

If the Canadiens were in the chase for a playoff spot, there would be no argument here. Everyone would want him back as soon as possible. Unfortunately for Montreal, they’re 18 points behind New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East. So in other words, it ain’t happening.

There are legitimate points on both sides of the argument. It’s easy to see why some people aren’t interested in having him play out the season. The reasons for him to get back in action are also simple.

In the end, none of this will matter…unless he gets hurt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.