Update: Lundqvist Out Three Weeks
It appears Henrik Lundqvist didn't take a puck to the throat unscathed. It was announced today that the Rangers' goaltender will be out at least three weeks with a vascular injury suffered in Sunday's game versus the Carolina Hurricanes.
Lundqvist being out long term is certainly a big blow to the Rangers. The 32-year-old is sixth in the NHL with 25 wins and 2.25 goals against average, third in the league with five shutouts and tenth with a .922 save percentage, and without a doubt one of the most important pieces on the New York Rangers. The goalie tandem the Rangers are currently going with is Cam Talbot and rookie Mackenzie Skapski.
Obviously the Rangers take a severe hit between the pipes with Talbot being the starter, but there is no reason to believe that the Rangers are going to plummet in the standing with Lundqvist potentially being out for the month of February. Talbot just defeated a very good Boston Bruins team on Wednesday night and has three shutouts in 12 games played this season. His .924 save percentage and 2.14 GAA are also very good for a backup; the big question is whether or not he will be able to sustain those types of numbers on a regular basis.
The Rangers aren’t the only team that has had to deal with their top goaltender being out for an extended period of time this season, though. The Nashville Predators lost Pekka Rinne for nearly a month, as has Detroit Red Wings’ net minder Jimmy Howard, who hopes to return to the lineup sometime next week. Both teams were in near the top of their respective divisions before their number one goaltenders went down with injuries, and their backups (Carter Hutton for Nashville and Petr Mrazek for Detroit) weren’t exactly household names. Despite having to use their backups as their starters and rookie goalies in a few games, the Red Wings are still within striking distance of first in the Atlantic Division and the Predators are still one of the top teams in the NHL.
Talbot has more experience and a better track record than both Hutton and Mrazek, so there is no reason to think that he cannot do as good a job, if not better, than they did for their teams when their goalies were out for extended parts of this season. And when you take a look at this month’s schedule for the Rangers, there aren’t many games against top talent teams in the NHL that the Rangers couldn’t win with Talbot in net. The Predators this Saturday, Islanders on Monday, Feb. 16 and Canucks on Thursday, Feb. 19 are the three games out of the 12 that could really pose a problem for the Rangers.
The schedule is also very spaced out, giving Talbot plenty of rest between games on the off chance the Rangers won’t want to use Skapski. The only time they might have to consider it is when they play the Canucks and then have to play the Sabres on the road the next day on Friday, Feb. 20.
Cam Talbot is a very good backup, and should be able to keep the Rangers within striking distance of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division in Lundqvist’s absence. The good news for the Rangers is that this injury hasn’t been reported season-ending and that Lundqvist, at this point, is expected to recover and come back in time for the end of the season and a playoff run if the Rangers make it.
For now, Vigneault says his team is taking it one game at a time, and that is all they can do in this situation.