rangers i price collisionAccidentally on purpose.”

That’s how Brandon Prust described the collision that eventually put Carey Price out of the opening game of the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers Saturday.

Price came up limping after speedy Rangers forward Chris Kreider hit him skates-first after falling to the ice on a breakaway at 3:15 of the second period. After appearing to shake it off, Price finished the period and then was pulled in favour of Peter Budaj.

According to Prust, “I don’t think he’s a dirty player, but he did nothing to slow up or avoid Price at all. In that situation, he went skates first, went into his leg. We know how to slide, we know how to fall. We’re in the NHL. We were taught how to fall when you’re 5 years old.”

Michel Therrien agrees, “Obviously, it was an accidental contact, but let’s put it this way, he didn’t make much effort to avoid the contact.”

First of all, we have no idea how serious Price’s problem really is. The Canadiens held an optional practice Sunday. Price was on the ice in full equipment, well before his teammates testing his knee in front of goaltending coach Stephane Waite. He left after a few minutes to take some therapy.

The problem also may be an extension of patellar tendinitis which is rumoured to have bothered Price since before the Olympics.  The inflammation of the tendon connecting the kneecap or patella to the shinbone, is thought to have caused Price to miss the Canadiens first eight games following the games. The main cure for the affliction is rest, something Price won’t get until his season ends.

We should take note of the fact that Price played the final 16:45 of the second period following the collision and, although letting in two more goals, didn’t seem to be favouring his right leg. Therrien told reporters after the game that he pulled Price in the third period as a precaution along with the fact that his team was going absolutely nowhere in the game.

Here’s the video.  You can judge for yourself the intent of Kreider. I’m inclined to cut him a little slack. To be sure he came on to Price skate first after being tripped up by Emelin.  Just not sure, with his speed and his proximity to the crease when he went down, how he had time to do anything differently. 

So, are we dealing with the “he said – they said” war of words that always seems to be the off-ice white noise of a playoff series, or a serious injury?

We probably won’t have a definitive answer until the Canadiens skate onto the ice for Game Two at 8:00 Monday night.