Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price points to the scoreboard as he is heckled by a Tampa Bay Lightning fan during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
MONTREAL - The NHL season has ended early for Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
The club confirmed Wednesday what had been suspected in recent days that Price was suffering from a mild concussion. The announcement was made after Price was examined by a team doctor.
Price will miss the final three games of the season, beginning with a home contest Wednesday night against Tampa Bay. The club plays Thursday in Carolina and ends the season Saturday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Canadiens are last in the Eastern Conference with 73 points and did not make the NHL playoffs.
The diagnosis sets in motion the NHL's concussion protocol, which calls for seven days of rest followed by a series of tests.
Price had been suffering from headaches since forward David Desharnais fell on his head during a drill at practice last Thursday.
But the incident was missed by the media because it happened during president Geoff Molson's news conference announcing the firing of general manager Pierre Gauthier.
Price played the following night in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers in New York. Backup Peter Budaj made a scheduled start Saturday night in a 3-2 shootout road loss to Washington.
The 24-year-old Price informed the team of his symptoms Monday.
"Carey usually doesn't stay down very often," Desharnais said this week. "He was a bit shaken up. I fell right on his head.
"He was complaining a little bit after the practice, just joking around that he had headaches because of me and stuff like that. But I guess it's not a joke right now."
Before the injury, Price was not sure if he would accept an invitation to play for Canada at the IIHF world championships. His participation appears even less likely now.
The goaltender drafted fifth overall in 2005 can become a restricted free agent this summer, although the team is expected to try to sign him to a long-term contract.
Price posted a 26-28-11 record in 65 starts this season with a 2.43 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Goalie Robert Mayer was called up from AHL Hamilton this week to back up Budaj.