October 04, 2016 - 1:23 PM
BROSSARD, Que. - The Montreal Canadiens camp can finally start for real now that goalie Carey Price and defenceman Shea Weber are back on the ice.
Price and Weber, arguably the team's top two stars, missed the first two weeks while helping Canada win the World Cup of Hockey. They joined camp Tuesday and will have 10 days to prepare for the regular season opener Oct. 13 in Buffalo.
To the consternation of reporters at the team's suburban training complex, neither player was made available to the media by the team.
But their teammates were glad to have them back.
"They bring a bit of a presence with them," said forward Brendan Gallagher. "They're a big part of our leadership group.
"Going forward we're going to have to rely on them quite a bit so it's nice to have them around and be a part of what we've got going on here. They were playing competitive hockey at the World Cup so I'm sure they'll have no problem stepping in and contributing right away."
Price and Weber skated with the players who were to take part in the team's penultimate pre-season game Tuesday night in Quebec City against the Boston Bruins.
Coach Michel Therrien also did not speak to the media, so it could not be confirmed that Price and Weber will dress for the final exhibition game Thursday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, although it is highly likely.
"Mostly for Shea because he hasn't played in Montreal, you want to get that first game at the Bell Centre," said captain Max Pacioretty. "You want to know what to expect when it comes to going to a home game; how long it takes to get to the rink; what way you want to go.
"You need to get into that home-game-day routine, so it's important for him. Carey's been here for years so he knows what to expect but it would be nice to get Webs into a game, but we'll see how things go."
Weber is in the spotlight as the player acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for fan favourite P.K. Subban. The Canadiens dealt their top puck-carrying rearguard for one of the most highly regarded defencemen in the NHL, whose strengths are his size, physicality and experience.
On paper, it was a straight swap of right-side defencemen, but the major difference is in the personalities of the calm, level-headed Weber and the ultra-exuberant Subban.
The addition of physical winger Andrew Shaw, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago, has also changed the look and feel of a team that fell apart and missed the playoffs after Price suffered a season-ending knee injury last November.
"I came into camp a little late, but guys were telling me it was a much different atmosphere from the start," said Pacioretty, who played for the United States at the World Cup. "Guys are really happy now with the way things are going on and off the ice.
"It's been a great tempo in practices and it starts with the atmosphere off the ice."
The question in camp is who will be Weber's defence partner. So far, it appears that job will go to Nathan Beaulieu, a 23-year-old 2011 first round draft pick who is coming off his first full NHL campaign. Beaulieu, a puck-carrier who had two goals and 17 assists in 64 games last season, even got a dressing room seat next to Weber.
"I've got to keep playing well, but it would be huge for my career," said Beaulieu. "He's helped develop a lot of good defencemen.
"That would be the ultimate goal and what I'm striving for."
Forward Paul Byron was slated to play in Quebec City but was scratched due to a virus. Brian Flynn took his place.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016