Some odds-and-ends before the Rangers try to hold their opponent tonight to less than eight goals:
<li>Henrik Lundqvist gets the start in goal. Tom Renney said the two spoke briefly after the game last night, and both were on board with getting him right back in against the Hurricanes. Renney said the other reason to start Lundqvist tonight was to make sure the goalie knew the drubbing last night was not his fault.
“We talked about that, but I think in going back to him tonight it’s certainly an endorsement that he wasn’t the issue,” Renney said.
<li>Same personnel tonight but Renney hinted at some possible tweaking to the combinations. The coach wouldn’t let on what those would be, so we’ll have to wait until at least warm-ups.
<li>As for Mats Sundin, there’s plenty to talk about, although not to Renney, who said his “complete concentration” was on Carolina.
But the big man’s appearance tonight, as part of a promotional obligation for PokerStars, is certainly a storyline. MSG Network is likely to at least show him in the suite, and there’s at least the chance that the station will ask him to speak on camera. As I mentioned earlier, though, Sundin has already indicated he won’t talk to the media until he’s signed with his new team.
Whether that team will be the Rangers will hinge in part on Sundin’s meeting with Glen Sather and others (Renney also wouldn’t say whether he’d be taking part). According the center’s agent, J.P. Barry, that meeting won’t be until either late tonight or early tomorrow before the Rangers bolt for California. Of course, since Sundin has been skating out in L.A. anyway, you’d think they could give him a lift.
<li>The most telling comments about Sundin came from his former coach Paul Maurice, who has recently taken over behind the bench with the Hurricanes, and who practically gushed when talking about Sundin as both a player and a person.
“I’ve got nothing but complete respect for Mats,” Maurice said. “He’s a marvelous person. He’s certainly a great player, but in that market (Toronto) to deal with what he dealt over the years — the grace, the leadership that he’s shown that organization. He’s a great player. That part’s easy. There’s a lot of great players. But this guy is a fantastic leader.”
Maurice was asked if he thought starting the season so late would impact the veteran. The coach remarked that Sundin is one of those players who keeps himself in impeccable shape, and also said Sundin can be taken at his word if he says he’s ready.
“The other thing about him, as you get to know him is whatever he tells you is the truth,” Maurice said. “So if he says he’s ready, then he’s ready to play. If he tells his conditioning is not a concern, then he has no concerns about his conditioning. It’s just that simple.”
Finally, Maurice talked about how Sundin would fit in with any team he joins mid-season. Again, he didn’t think it would be an issue.
“He’s a horse. He’s an absolute horse,” he said. “He can play as many minutes as you want. He can do both face-offs. More important sometimes, when you have a really good team and you bring in somebody from the outside, you always wonder how that fits — what changes in the room. It’s another at times ego that comes in the room. It’ll never be a problem with him.
Update, 7:00 p.m.: Looks like the same lines are intact. The Rangers are wearing their white jerseys, which has almost a nostalgic feel to it. I still like the blue at home, however.
Update, 7:38 p.m.: 2-1 Rangers after Blair Betts buried a perfect Fred Sjostrom pass for a shorthander.
No truth to the rumor Mats Sundin walked out of the suite and said, “Ah, these guys don’t need me.”
Actually, what Sundin said was, “It would be an honor to play on a team with Blair Betts.”