Rangers goalkeeper Lundqvist ready to return to lineup
NEW YORK (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist is back with the New York Rangers, though it could be some time still before he is ready for a game.
New York’s No. 1 goalkeeper was cleared to practice on Tuesday following a serious neck injury, but he may not return to competitive action for a while — largely because the Rangers’ schedule leaves little room for practice.
“I feel good,” Lundqvist said before the Rangers hosted Chicago on Wednesday night. “I am excited to get a chance now to kind of get back into things. It’s been six long weeks. I am excited to finally get back with the team, and just ready to play hockey again.”
The Swede was injured Jan. 31 when he was struck by a shot by Carolina’s Brad Malone. He finished the game and played two nights later. Further tests revealed the severity of the injury, which included the risk of a stroke.
Lundqvist has been working out on the ice, but had faced only low shots until coaches sent pucks his way Wednesday morning.
“I want to make sure when I go out there, I feel ready and I can make a difference and help the team,” he said. “Before that, it’s better for everyone if I just stay in practice and work on my game.”
Lundqvist, the Rangers’ career wins and shutouts leader, was 16-4 with a 1.82 goals-against average and one shutout in 20 games before the injury. Overall this season, he is 25-11-3 with a 2.25 goals-against average and five shutouts.
New York has gone 15-3-2 with backup Cam Talbot before Wednesday’s game, and the Rangers have surged to the top of the NHL standings.
With four games in seven nights, including a back-to-back set this weekend, the team won’t be practicing much. The players will have a full team workout Friday and another next Wednesday before playing at Ottawa on March 26.
“We’re going to have to play this by ear a little bit,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Getting shots from quality coaches like he did this morning and getting shots from players in a practice is probably not the same thing.
Lundqvist said his injury has healed well and in the expected timeline laid out by doctors in New York and around the United States who served as consultants.
“Hockey is such a big part of my life, so when you miss that for that long you feel off,” the 33-year-old said. “I am walking around and been skating really hard, so physically I feel great. Now it’s more about getting out there, getting the timing right and get comfortable for game situations in practice.”
Vigneault said he would feel comfortable using Lundqvist in the playoffs if he plays at least two games down the stretch in the regular season. No date has been set yet to get him into a game.