By Rick Carpiniello
It just keeps getting worse for the Rangers. As they hobble to Philadelphia Thursday for the eighth of a brutal nine-game season-opening road trip, they will be without goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Rookie Cam Talbot, who replaced the waived-then-retired Martin Biron as Lundqvist’s backup, will make his first NHL start for the 2-5 Rangers.
Lundqvist has what the team is only calling a minor, though mysterious, “irritation” that he apparently suffered prior to his best game of the season, in Washington (in a 2-0 shutout, ironically).
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Wednesday that, if tonight’s game was a playoff game, Lundqvist could play. But Lundqvist, who was annoyed at himself after Saturday’s 4-0 loss in Newark, took Monday off as what the team simply called a “maintenance day.” Then he missed Tuesday’s practice with a “minor issue.” He didn’t skate Wednesday and now he won’t play in Philadelphia.
He made the trip, but there’s no guess whether he will play Saturday in Detroit, the final game of the nine-game odyssey made necessary by the final stages of the Garden’s renovation. The Rangers open at home Monday against Montreal, play the next night on Long Island, then play seven of nine at home.
The Rangers are already without Rick Nash (concussion), Ryan Callahan (broken thumb) and Carl Hagelin (shoulder surgery). Hagelin will be eligible to play Tuesday.
The Rangers have played 237 regular-season games since anybody other than Lundqvist or Biron has started in goal (Alex Auld, 2011).
Lundqvist is 2-4 with a hideous 3.45 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. Jason Missiaen was recalled from Hartford to back up Talbot in Philadelphia.