MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens players Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher returned to the minor leagues on Monday night for a one-game stint in an effort to get up to game speed ahead of the NHL playoffs.
Price and Gallagher, who have been sidelined with injuries, suited up with the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket in a 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies.
The players were on a conditioning assignment and are expected to rejoin the Canadiens before Thursday’s playoff opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I really wanted to play a game before the playoffs started, (general manager Marc Bergevin) approached me and asked and told me it was ‘totally your call if you want to do it,’ and I was all for the idea. You can’t simulate game action,” Gallagher said.
Price, who missed several games in net this season with a lower-body injury and a concussion, started off slowly on Monday, allowing two goals on four shots in the first 4:11 before finishing with 13 saves on 15 shots in two periods. He was scheduled to split time in net with Cayden Primeau, who faced two shots in the third period.
Price had not played since April 19, when he collided with Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson.
“He’s excited. It’s never fun being out of the lineup. He’s eager to be back,” Gallagher said when asked about Price, who didn’t talk after the game.
“The excitement and hunger is there and it’s nice to see.”
Gallagher, meanwhile, picked up a double minor for high sticking in the third and had two shots on net while playing on a line with Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Jordan Weal.
Gallagher broke his thumb when he blocked a shot by teammate Alexander Romanov against the Oilers on April 5. The winger missed his team’s last 21 games.
“I feel good. Injury is now in the back of my head,” Gallagher said. “Certain areas (could be better), but I’ll blame that more on the lungs. Pretty confident in myself and will be able to jump in with the big boys come playoff time.”
Bobby McMann and Stefan Noesen scored, and Michael Hutchinson made 39 saves for the Marlies (15-16-2), who won their fourth straight.
McMann beat Price glove side from just inside the left face-off circle with a quick wrist shot while on the power play after taking a feed from Justin Brazeau.
A turnover behind the Laval net led to the puck popping out front of Price for Noesen to slide in blocker side with a backhand less than two minutes later.
Price is 12-7-5 with a 2.64 goals-against-average and a .901 save percentage in 25 games with the Canadiens this year.
Gallagher has 14 goals and 23 points in 35 games this year with the Canadiens.
Price last suited up in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2007-08 season, while Gallagher dressed for the Bulldogs in 2012-13.