The Rangers announced on Friday afternoon that star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will miss at least three weeks due to a “vascular injury.”
Team released the following statement at 2:43 p.m. on Friday: “Henrik Lundqvist suffered a vascular injury on Saturday. We have been conferring with leading medical experts to ensure the best possible care. Henrik will remain sidelined at least three weeks, until he is reevaluated and we have completed the process of conferring with the medical experts.”
The pressure is now on Cam Talbot to keep the Rangers pushing the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The third-place Rangers are currently three points behind the first-place Islanders and have two games in hand on the Isles and Penguins, having played 49 games.
Previously, the team described Lundqvist’s injury as a “day-to-day with a non-concussion related neck injury.” Following Friday’s practice in Greenburgh, N.Y., head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Lundqvist will not be traveling with the team to Nashville ahead of their Saturday afternoon meeting with the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. He was not able provide an update on Lundqvist’s condition at the time.
“I have no updates at this time,” Vigneault said. “Obviously Hank’s not coming on the trip, and when the organization has an update for you, we’ll share it with you. I have nothing right now.
“I’m focused on our game tomorrow against Nashville. This is a medical issue that our staff will deal with, and my focus and our players’ focus is totally on a team that’s playing extremely well, and that’s the Predators.”
Should Lundqvist be out for a month or longer, he would return to action following the Mar. 2 trade deadline. Expect Rangers general manager Glen Sather to busy attempting to acquire an experienced backup goaltender.
Currently, 20-year-old Mackenzie Skapski is the Rangers’ backup. Skapski is yet to play an NHL game. Vigneault shot down a question about whether the Rangers would seek a backup goalie.
“We’re in the market right now to win Saturday’s game,” Vigneault said.
Talbot is slated to start back-to-back afternoon games, first against the Predators in Nashville at 3 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, then in the Rangers’ home game against the Dallas Stars at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Saturday’s game will mark the first time this season Talbot has started consecutive games. Through 12 games this season, Talbot is 5-4-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average, and a .924 save percentage. He has collected three shutouts. Over his past five games, Talbot is 5-2-0 with a 1.51 GAA, a .946 save percentage and three shutouts.
Vigneault and the Rangers have full confidence in Talbot’s ability to shoulder the load while Lundqvist is unavailable.
“The last five or six games, he’s been playing extremely well,” Vigneault said. “I mentioned at some point last week, he got off to an average start. He’s definitely picked up his level of play. Every game since then, he’s given us a chance to win. We’re gonna need to play real solid in front of him. I think we did that against Boston. We had one of our better defensive and offensive games in awhile.”
Center Dominic Moore spoke exclusively to XN Sports following the Rangers’ practice.
“We have a lot of confidence in both our goalies,” Moore said. “We’re fortunate to have two excellent goalies. Obviously, Henrik is among the best in the league, and Cam has shown how good he is every chance he’s had to play. We’ve got a lot of confidence regardless who’s in the net.”
Moore recognizes Talbot’s commitment toward improvement.
“He’s focused on improvement and getting better and better,” Moore said. “He works day in and day out at improving his craft. We see it every day. He follows that line and he’s had success.”
Talbot is ready to take on the responsibility of being ‘the guy’ while Lundqvist is sidelined.
“Right now, I’m focusing on not missing a beat and not trying to tail off,” Tablot said. “We’ve been on a bit of a roll here. I don’t want to see that end. It’s my job to go in there and step up my game a little bit and prove maybe I can do the job when called upon for more than a game at a time. It’s a different mindset, going in there knowing I’ll get a couple of games here in a row. It’s one that I’ve done in the past. I look forward to the opportunity of doing it again.”
While Lundqvist is undoubtedly one of the league’s elite goalies and a franchise netminder, Rangers fans should be confident in Talbot’s ability to keep the Rangers gunning for first place. Whenever he’s been called upon, Talbot has shown that he possesses the ability of a no. 1 goaltender.
Losing Lundqvist for a stretch of at least three weeks is an unfortunate blow for the Blueshirts. Fortunately, Talbot is a top-quality stand-in.